There is something addictive about rolling across a country on a motorcycle. The experience is similar to floating on cloud nine as some may say. Nothing excites me more than the thought of a road trip, whether it be on two wheels or four. So, when Travis’s work schedule conflicted with our vacation schedule I decided to ride our epic adventure west solo.
We had planned a journey down several BDR routes through the western U.S. and then down the Pacific Coast Highway. Late September into early October has a tendency to get rather cold in certain parts of the country, especially some of the mountain areas along the route. Originally, we would have headed across Colorado and then north through Utah, Idaho, and Washington before turning south. This was my own plan due to the weather factors and wanting to avoid the fall snow.
But, when time came to roll out alone, I changed the route and headed straight west and slightly south first. This, of course, did end up biting me in the ass a bit later on. My idea was to ride the Colorado BDR, spend a bit of time in my little “home away from home” of Silverton, then venture on to new things.
This plan was unfolding quite nicely once I finally rode out of the rain across Iowa and sped my way through Nebraska. I made the Colorado border in the sunshine and proceeded to twist my throttle around the incredible mountain roads. I even took the time to videotape an epically awesome run over Monarch pass at top speeds and fantastic horizontal angles! At the bottom of the pass however, I made the sad discovery that the only thing I managed to get on film was my gas tank and a lot of wind/engine noises. I had forgotten to turn the camera off of selfie mode when I strapped it to the wind screen. Technology 1 – Jessie 0.
To add to my daredevil stunts, I then had the pleasure of following an extraordinarily long line of Porsches the entire rest of the way down highway 50. To think, if only I hadn’t stopped to try and film my mediocre riding skills I might have been miles ahead of this parade. Needless to say, my jaunt from Evergreen to Lake City took quite a bit longer than anticipated.
Lake City greeted me with a music festival and beautiful blue skies for my first off road journey on the Nine-T. I headed up the gravel road to Cinnamon Pass and began my climb over the hills to Animas Forks. I had a glorious couple of hours enjoying the rocky washed out road and incredible scenery. I was feeling on top of the world and confident as ever in my off road capabilities …(on THE easiest section of the Alpine loop.) Nonetheless, I was on a whole new level and felt invincible! I rode through a giant avalanche slide and discovered a new waterfall along the way.
It was getting later in the afternoon and I decided I should really get settled in for the night before the sun completely disappeared. I rode down the infamous stretch of 4×4 trail from Animas Forks to Eureka and then onto the gravel road into Silverton. This is where I decided that I was in fact in love with my new tires, these things made the gravel seem like pavement and I was probably going entirely too fast because of it. Roughly 1300 miles into this trip, I decided Heidenau tires were my new favorite shoes for the BMW.
Silverton welcomed me with open arms, a stuffed burrito, and a jalapeno margarita. Oh how I love Rudy’s! What more could a girl ask for? Well, possibly a bed and a hot shower, and a…heated toilet seat?! Oh the Columbine Road House did not disappoint! Day three on the road had left its mark and I was more than excited to start day 4.
I woke up to the first of many frosty morning frozen motorcycles and decided a chai tea and some chit chat were on my breakfast menu. The Coffee Bear had all I was after and more. I bought my most useful piece of riding gear there, a bright purple neck warmer. This thing became an essential part of my wardrobe further down the road and has since became my favorite skiing accessory.
The day was moving along without me and I decided to cut the chatter and head off to the mountains. I first went for a hike and a hot spring soak then decided to test my off road skills again. There is another well known pass in the neighborhood that leads to Telluride. Ophir is known as the cake walk of 4×4 roads in this area. I figured as well as yesterday’s ride went, this one should be no problem. And, I wanted a piece of pizza from a local pub in Telluride.
I ventured off the main highway onto the gravel road toward Ophir and couldn’t believe how inspiring the scenery was along the way. I reached the summit in no time and discovered that the road turned into large chunky sharp rocks from there down. No worries, I had this handled, just take my time and roll right through it all.
Oh, I rolled alright. Mostly too quickly and then somewhat sideways and after several profanities, I was over the bars and under the bike and into the rocks. I had come so far, yet still had a long ways to go, physically and metaphorically. I was mostly fine, kind of, like in the sense I was standing up and still conscious. But, my bike was at an awkward angle on a downhill slide and my arm seemed to be swelling instantly from my impact. I gave the bike a few good tugs and decided this was not going to be an easy task like when I had tipped it over on the curve earlier and just lifted it back up effortlessly.
Nope, this one was going to require help due to my seemingly multiplying injuries. It became apparent on my second attempt at lifting the bike that my knee and hip were also not in the same condition they had been before my rapid dismount. Hmmm, now what?
Luckily, I was not the only one out enjoying the blue skies and and sunshine. A jeep and a Toyota came bouncing down the road to my current location. I waved them to stop before they got too far down the hill towards me and would have nowhere to park. Next thing I knew, I had a guy on my bike, one helping hold it steady and one of their wives inspecting my wrist. It was a party! With a group effort, we got the bike to a leveler spot of the trail all looked to be well with it.
I thanked the troops many times over as they asked repeatedly if I was ok to ride on. That was yet to be determined, but I knew for sure I’d be taking the long way around the mountain on the way back once I finally got off of it. It was a few more miles and several water crossings before I reached the main road. By this time I had a full account of my bumps and bruises and was not able to move very gracefully.
It was gearing up to be a long day all of the sudden. Until, I found my pizza and a beer which I chased with an afternoon at the hot springs. I’m still not sure if the soaling was good or bad for my wounds but I enjoyed every steaming second of it while it lasted. Now, I had no set plan for my adventures so I decided another night in Silverton would probably be the best option at this point.
The bike suffered some minor scars and scratches but over all took it’s fall like a champ. I was trying not to seem like a sally but couldn’t help but limp when I walked. Getting on and off the Nine-T was now a bit of a moaning and groaning chore. Day 4 had officially kicked my ass but I was determined to make the best of it and had a lovely night at Rudy’s with an extra couple of Jalapeno Margaritas to wash my pride clean again.
Day five. Oh my, oooh, ahhh, ouch! It couldn’t have been 3 AM when I woke up in some of the worst kinds of pain. My knee didn’t want to straighten, my hip didn’t want to bend, and my arm looked as if it may be broken. Unsure exactly what I had done to myself, I took the advice of everyone I had spoken to and went in for an xray after breakfast.
It was a gorgeous ride down highway 550 into Purgatory but my throttle arm was less than pleased with the journey. First we had to locate a chain separator to remove my “bracelet” and then they took some x rays. Good news, no obvious signs of a fracture, bad news, this was one hell of a sprain among other things. They sent me off with a brace and some home care instructions.
Now, nothing is broken so I can continue to ride off into the sunset! I headed back to Silverton and had some lunch at the Handlebars Saloon, another one of my “must haves” when I’m in town. Then, off to the roadhouse to pack my things and roll away. Utah was waiting and the weather couldn’t be more perfect.
I chose the road more traveled this time after the previous days off road mishaps. I found a nice little campsite in Monticello and setup for the night just before sunset. A camp cooked meal followed by some mapping and I was off to sleep. But, not for long. Oh my was I a hurting unit. I’m not exactly sure which body part woke me up first, I am sure that I was wishing for a warm soft bed about 2 A.M.
By the time the sun came over the horizon, I had been awaiting its arrival for several hours. I had managed to Macgyver my pannier lid into a counter top to make my coffee and breakfast on. Now, my shoulder had decided we were no longer friends and straightening my left leg was not a fun maneuver. I decided to slip off my arm brace and found something resembling anything but a human forearm. Ugh.
Oh well, the ride must go on! I rallied myself and my pity party into the showers and then onto the bike by 9 A.M. Utah is one of my favorite states, you never see the same thing twice no matter how many times you drive through. I took some dirt/gravel side roads and one side trip up to the Bear’s Ears National Monument. By sunset I landed somewhere near the Nevada border at a campground.
There was no point in pretending I was going to sleep any better this night than the last. The days ride had had me moaning and wincing in pain long before the ride ended. Ah the things we humans do to ourselves. The camp showers were hot and I took full advantage of being the only one at the shower house. Tonights stay was several degrees warmer than the last had been and I was excited to break into new territory in the morning. I had ridden or driven the entire route to this point on previous adventures, tomorrow brought the unknown.
I was once again awaiting the sunrise in my agony and trying unsuccessfully to stretch out my aches and pains. It was now clear that I would require some kind of pain killers if I planned to sleep or continue to ride across the country for the next two weeks. First, I must stop by Mom’s Cafe for some breakfast. I spotted this little gem on my way through town and decided it should be part of my plan. The building appeared old and the painted advertisement for the cafe was sprawled across the brick facade. Turns out, the building was erected in 1878 as a general store/coop and then became Mom’s Cafe in 1926. What a find! Super great service and food with an old-fashioned malt shop atmosphere.
With a full belly and tank of fuel I headed for one of the loneliest roads in America. Highway 6 across Nevada runs through ancient volcanic calderas and lava flow fields. I stopped in Ely to fuel up again even though I had only ridden a few miles. Because, from this point on it is 167 miles to the next gas station. On a lot of motorcycles that distance is barley doable or impossible without carrying extra fuel. the Nine-T had taken me 216 miles on a tank through Colorado but I wasn’t going to chance anything out here in the great wide open nothingness.
The ride itself is quite beautiful and there are several places to venture off and find craters and lava fields and other ancient desert wonders. The road is lined with salt beds in some areas and the mountains are always visible in most directions. But, there is nothing and no one for most of the journey. I did pass a couple walking with a giant cart that had a sign reading, “walking across america.” All I could think to myself was, “no thanks, I’ll ride.”
I’m not quite a quarter through my travels here but the next days are going to take up some time and space here so ta-ta for now. I’ll continue rolling in the next blog!