Archive - July 2016

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Day 14: The Million Dollar Hwy Ouray, CO to Page AZ
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Day 13: Colorado Springs to Ouray CO
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Day 12: Garden of the Gods and Cripple Creek
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Day 11: Pikes Peak
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Day 10: McCook NE to Colorado Springs CO
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Day 9:The Midwest Weather is a Fickle Thing…
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Day 7: Naperville IL to Cedar Rapids IA
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What do they do all day?
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Day 6: Lima, OH to Naperville, IL
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AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days

Day 14: The Million Dollar Hwy Ouray, CO to Page AZ

We had a long day ahead of us, as this would be one of our longest days at over 330 miles, as well as a day with the most dramatic landscape changes, and variety.  Our plan was to get up early, have breakfast and get going.  The city of Ouray looks like a little town you would find in the Swiss Alps.  I was bummed we were only there for a short time. We departed, surrounded by the Colorado Rockies,  and it was cool and, are you ready…it started to rain. We donned our rain gear and hit the steep turns leading out of town. The San Juan Scenic Byway (US Route 550), more frequently referred to as the Million Dollar Highway, offered lots of steep and tight, twists and turns through red mountains and craggy peaks as it took us down through the town of Silverton, where we saw the old remnants of a mining company. In Durango, we actually got to see a steam locomotive.  At first when I saw the blackish smoke I thought a diesel truck was spewing up ahead. Then there was more and more, and it looked like something was on fire in the middle of the road. We finally got closer and saw that it was a train going down the track. I bet that was quite a sight to see back in the day, as that monster spewed black smoke coming down the line.  We grabbed some sandwiches and continued our ride to Four Corners. We made a quick stop at Mesa Verde National Park to look at the Visitor’s Center. The kids were tired and did not want to go drive up to the Indian cliff dwellings, plus we had a lot of miles to go, so we moved on. That will be a great place to visit when we come back! The weather got warmer, as did the colors of the landscape. By the time we arrived at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico the desert heat was sweltering. We took the obligatory photo of us in 4 states, and looked around at all the vendors selling indian jewelry, pottery and art.   The temperature really started to heat up, and we needed to find some water to get our cooling vests wet. There are only port a potties at the four corners site, so we took off in search of the nearest gas station or anything. Luckily it was not too far we were able to gas up, get water and Gatorade, and dunk the cooling vests for the next leg of the journey. In the parking lot we chatted with an Indian man who was admiring the sidecar. He warned us about driving on the 160, to be on the lookout for horses and cattle.  We went less than a 1/4 mile when we see 2 horses sauntering across the highway without a care in the world. Once again we had great luck with the[…]

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Day 13: Colorado Springs to Ouray CO

Today’s journey took us away from Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, and led us over another high peak, Monarch Pass, at 11312 ft.  The sidecar rig chugged up that big hill pulling the weight, but we made it. The ski lift there was running to take summer visitors up for hiking and biking, but we kept moving on. We made sure to stop at the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, National Park. Very dramatic cliff views similar to the Grand Canyon.  The type of lookouts that give you a hint of vertigo when you are at the edge holding onto the rail. More twists and turns brought us to Ouray, the “Switzerland of America”. I must admit that driving through town was not easy. The road was tilted down to the right, so I had to really fight to keep the bike going in a straight line.  We finally arrived at the Twin Peaks Lodge, a picture postcard setting, and this hotel even had its own hot springs. The swimming pool was like heaven. We are already talking about coming back here. An absolutely gorgeous spot to relax and do nothing…or ride your motorcycle. Now that Frank is with us for the rest of the trip home, we should have some more photos. It is nice to have your own personal photographer help document the trip.  

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Day 12: Garden of the Gods and Cripple Creek

I’m taking a break from a long write-up since I am falling behind.  I rode Frank’s bike around and he piloted the sidecar rig while we hit more beautiful scenery near Colorado Springs. Here is what we did today: 1. Garden of the Gods: Fantastic modern Visitors Center with many interactive displays in large touch screen form. The kids loved this place. The views and the short drive were stunning.  I would love to come back here to go camping and hiking. 2. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument:  Another great visitors center with lots of fun kids stuff, lots of cool fossils, and petrified trees.  We did not have time to do everything. 3. Had lunch in a casino at the historic mining town of Cripple Creek. Cute little town with a really steep main street, and old-fashioned looking buildings. To view more photos, click here: 

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Day 11: Pikes Peak

Frank planned some vacation days to join us on the last part of the ride, and he met us in Colorado Springs last night. Today was a get up early kind of day. Today was an epic adventure kind of day. Today was the group ride up to the top of Pikes Peak. The night before it had rained as we were driving up to Colorado Springs CO. We were all cozy in our hotel not realizing what was going on up in the mountains above us. We dragged the kids out of bed, had an early breakfast and got on the road to go to the staging area (parking lot) just outside of the entrance to go up Pikes Peak. We ditched the trailer at the hotel so I would have less weight to pull. Two new day riders joined us for the day on 1940’s Indians.  I was impressed with the bikes, but would be more impressed when they got to the top. It was a beautiful, sunny, but cool morning.  We knew it was going to be really cold at the top, so we had many layers on to be prepared for the drop in temps as we rose in altitude. We had also had many warnings about altitude sickness, so last night we made sure to drink plenty of fluids.  The signs are headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue or general malaise, and the only “cure” for altitude sickness is to go back down the mountain. So up we went, this motley crew of old and young, new bikes, vintage bikes, veteran riders and newbies, to conquer 14,114 ft of mountain.  The road became more and more winding and the turns got tighter and steeper.  Unfortunately, two riders collided on a turn and went down in a sharp right hander, which ended in one rider with a broken wrist. Others were already tending to the accident, and waved the group on to continue. Little by little we gained altitude, and we left the evergreen trees and rose into the alpine layer. The road became a zig zag course of extremely tight U-turn type of turns that required me to really muscle the rig around. Then the ride got interesting as there was snow on the ground, quite a bit, and the road was wet as the snow was already melting from the morning sun. We continued up when all of a sudden the flow of cars and bikes in front of us came to a stop. The road was closed due to snow.  NO!!! Was this how today was going to end? We would be denied the top of the mountain because of snow? We all pulled over and shut down. We heard rumors that they were clearing the road with a snow plow, but no word on how long it would be. Some of us stayed to wait, but little by little some of the ladies on bikes decided to head back down. We took a quick[…]

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Day 10: McCook NE to Colorado Springs CO

OK. I am just going to come out and say it. Driving through Kansas is really boring. It makes Nebraska and Texas look exciting.  The other thing I noticed is that every now and then they have these road closed signs that are similar to a railroad crossing bar. You know, the ones that are in the up position until a train is coming, then it swings down to block the road.  Well, there are a bunch of these in Kansas…and no train tracks. At first I had no idea why they would need to close the road like that. Then I realized the whole Wizard of Oz weather, Auntie Em, Auntie Em, It’s a twister! thing. I am not sure I would want to live in a state that has weather so severe that it is common to have road closed barriers at the ready. Part way through the morning I was approaching St.Francis, Kansas, and noticed a sign that said “motorcycle museum”. I don’t remember seeing this on our itinerary. But I figured I would make the turn and go check it out. When I get there, about 12 other riders are already there. This was not a planned stop but everyone else saw the sign and went to check it out, too. We come to find out that the St. Francis Motorcycle Museum had just opened at the end of May, so it was brand new, and ready for visitors. We even got to put the first City of Torrance pin on a map of the US that showed where visitors came from.  So this museum was an unexpected bonus for the day and had some wonderful bikes in varied condition. And it was in the middle of nowhere Kansas. So random, but what a great find. Today, I tried to keep up with a group so I would not be alone all day. That worked out fine until after lunch. Then I made the mistake of following them on the “shorter route” to Colorado Springs, without checking that there were not enough gas stops for me. So, in order to stay on roads that had gas stations, I had to divert north, out of the way a bit, which added more time and miles to my day. Oh, well. The only bad thing was that when I was approaching Colorado Springs there was some serious weather starting to happen. I pulled over to put on my rain gear, and in no time at all there was thunder, lightning and rain. Both the kids said “Whoa!” when the thunder happened. We don’t get that too often in California. As the highway kept curving around in different directions, it kept lining me up to go straight into the rain. The last 10 minutes of the ride it was pouring, but we made it to the hotel. Have you noticed the pattern emerging where I get caught in the rain? The kids love it! I mean we rarely see rain[…]

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Day 9:The Midwest Weather is a Fickle Thing…

We spent the night visiting family in Nebraska and awoke to rain. Not again! It was not in the forecast, so I of course have to run outside AGAIN, to get stuff out of the sidecar and cover things up.  I had even left our swimsuits out on their back patio to dry off, and those were now in the rain…oh the irony.  This whole “weather” thing is kicking my butt. Since there is a bit of thunder and lightning I decide to wait out the rain, and we will boycott our mission to the family farm and head to McCook, Nebraska to rejoin the group.  A little before 10am it clears up nicely (or so it seemed) and we get packed up and hustle to get going. Right as we are saying our last good byes it starts to sprinkle and the wind picks up.  Time to get out of Dodge. While waiting for the rain to stop earlier, I had planned a route to take. When I got to the edge of town and turned to head West, the sky was black. I thought for about three seconds if this was a good idea, when a lighting bolt flashed in the sky many miles ahead of us.  OK, then, lets go south instead. I needed to try to go in the direction of blue sky and try to stay ahead of that storm cell. As I drove south again, I noticed that I had dark sky and rain almost 270 degrees around us. I went as fast as I could, but about 20 miles later it caught us. We were driving in rain for about 20 minutes, then just like that, it was over and the rest of the way through Nebraska was sunny and hot. By the time we got to Kearney, Nebraska, it was uncomfortable hot, at about 93 degrees. The highlight of the day was going to the Great Platt River Road Archway museum in Kearney.  It is a very well done museum that highlights the many ways people moved west across america. You get a headset that tells you stories and info as you walk through the museum. There are nice giant wall sized photos and lifelike displays, that chronicle Indians, settlers moving west via covered wagons, then the train, then the Lincoln Highway. I was impressed by the whole presentation. Plus the whole things spans the I-80, and you can look down on the cars as they go by.  Outside there are also some nice sculptures and a giant maze that the kids ran through. We spent the night in McCook Nebraska, were we had dinner at Taco Johns for the first time ever.  All I have to say is those Potato Ole’s are one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten (I am sure they are fat free and super healthy too). And the kids meal came with giant Goldfish graham crackers. Where have these been? Yum. My goal for the[…]

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Day 7: Naperville IL to Cedar Rapids IA

Today was an interesting day, and we were kinda all over the place, literally and figuratively.  We were traveling along the tollway I-88 out of the greater Chicago/Naperville area, and our directions had us stay on that for quite a while. I was tired of being on the interstate, so I thought I would just get off and take a smaller highway for a while.  I saw a sign for the Ronald Reagan Home.  OK, I was curious, plus it was about time for a break. We stopped to take a look at the boyhood home of the president who “ruled” the 80’s.  It was closed on Mondays, but we got lucky as a tour bus had arrived to have a tour, so the tour guide was nice enough to say we could tag along. Boy did that air conditioning feel good. We did not have time for the video or entire tour, but it was fun to look around at some of the pictures and quotes.  I don’t think the kids really cared that much about who he was…but I explained that he was president when I was in high school, and that he was elected to 2 terms, so we had a good discussion about how long someone can be president and other stuff like that. (Ha Ha! Snuck in something educational!) Our next planned stop was Fulton IL, to see an authentic Dutch working windmill. Lucky again, we walked in right when the docent was starting his talk. The kids really liked the windmill, and the museum across the street that had many to scale models of windmills. I learned that they actually had sails on windmills to catch the wind. We were also right along side the Mississippi River, about to cross over into Iowa. I quizzed the kids on what river we might be next to, and Makayla took a guess and was right. (See that, tricked them again into thinking and learning!) For lunch today, we went to McDonalds. Spencer has been bugging me the whole trip. I think I did pretty good, waiting this long. Only now we have two tiny stuffed animals that have been added to the weight I am pulling.  Thank you McDonalds for the useless toys in the Happy Meal. Next stop was the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. We sure are seeing a lot of motorcycle museums. I had no idea there were so many collections of motorcycles and motorcycle memorabilia.  This place had me a bit skeptical at first because I am pretty sure it is in what used to be a grocery store.  Once inside it was soon overwhelming.  There was so much stuff, next to more stuff, on top of more stuff.  You could either describe it as motorcycle museum heaven or hell. So much to look at: bikes, art, posters, clothing, toys, pictures, display after display. It was jam packed to the gills. Tomorrow we head into Nebraska. To view more photos, click[…]

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What do they do all day?

Once again I did not think to check the forecast and I woke up to rain on the window and quickly ran outside to check on the bike. My seat and the kids seat pad were wet, so I went about fixing the situation. It was also very windy. Not a good thing if I want to ever get good gas mileage. The morning was cool, so that was a nice relief from the oven blast feeling from yesterday. So today is the day that I completely break off from the group to go visit family in Nebraska. I will catch up with them Wednesday night. It took all day to go through Iowa. It is much bigger than it looks.  Gone are the dense trees of the east. We are now in the plains states. Did I mention we grow a lot of corn in this country?   We made the Amana Colonies our first stop this morning. We went to the visitors center, and the museum to watch a short film about the 7 colonies. This place is better suited to adults who want to look at arts and crafts and shopping. The kids weren’t really feeling it today, so we didn’t stay too long. My next mission was to find a historic bridge on the Lincoln Highway, but that turned into a wild goose chase courtesy of my GPS. I never did find the bridge. Many people have asked me “What do your kids do all day in the sidecar?” They have a variety of things they rotate through.  We have an iPad and a Sony tablet (that I won on the Queen Latifa show! Ask me the story next time you see me!). They can play games, watch movies, read comic books, books, and magazines. Then we also brought some real books, including the summer reading they are required to do for school.  We all have SENA helmet communicators so we can talk to each other, listen to music, or listen to the movie playing on the device. Each kid has a “Snackeez” cup and snack container, so they can drink and snack when they want to.  We try to take many stretch breaks. So far they are doing pretty good. They are definitely in tight quarters, so they have their moments of bugging each other. My kids also wear helmets. I am not sure about the helmet laws inside a sidecar for each state…but for us it is helmets all the time.  I also have my kids wear earplugs to cut down on the wind noise and hearing damage.  (It’s bad enough they can’t “hear” me when I call them at home, I don’t want to damage their ears more.)  Today was a test for all of us, as we went about 380 miles.

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Day 6: Lima, OH to Naperville, IL

Today was going to be a slightly longer day, about 305 miles. But we had planned on visiting another friend along the way. Spencer’s 1st grade teacher Mrs. Laniosz and her husband Tim, have a small farm outside of the Chicago area and she splits her time teaching school in CA during the year, and summers in Illinois. So we had checked with her and if it worked out we would stop by to visit. Again, the planets aligned and her place was only 30 minutes from our hotel. The morning was (I hate to say this…) more of the same. Also in my ignorance, I had no idea that the rest of the country was mostly farmland. I have been to Nebraska many times, so I am not sure what I was expecting from the neighboring states, but there is really a whole lot of nothing out there. The “big cities” have the people of course, but once you get away from them, there are just farms and small houses that dot the countryside. All I have to say is we as a nation must consume a lot of corn and corn byproducts. Literally mile after mile is nothing but corn fields. The corn currently looks like it is about six feet tall, and I do love the way the it looks as the wind moves through the fields — like waves of green water rippling and flowing back and forth. The afternoon was actually quite relaxing. The kids got to run around for a bit on Mrs. Laniosz farm, gather eggs, and play with her dog. We even went to the local ice cream place, called the Plush Horse, for some delicious homemade ice cream. While we were out, Tim washed and detailed the bike and sidecar. How amazing is that! He did not want to let me continue my drive across the country with a dirty bike.  Click on the photos to view larger.  

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AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days

sisters ride ridersOn our way to the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio Race Track we had the chance to go through a little bit of Amish country (we did see one horse and buggy in Pennsylvania). Today we saw families outside of their farm, kids driving the horse and buggy to town, and even saw a beautiful Clydesdale next to his red barn. Another beautiful drive through perfectly green farmland. My one surprise was seeing an Amish couple (I assumed) get into a car at the gas station while I was filling up. Later someone told me they might be Mennonite.

DSC09650-1024x683-psThe plan for the group was to arrive together and get staged for a lap around the race track in between the regularly  scheduled races. I did not know that. I assumed that we would be in a parking lot, and I would unhook the trailer before going on the track. When we got there, they led us directly to the gate and they lined us all up at the front of the “false grid”, I think they called it. Then a whole bunch of other bikes and riders start swarming around us and we get packed in. So, I guess this was happening now! When it was time, they then lined us up on the grid area, and with a pace car in front of us we all got to do 2 laps around the track. Makayla took video and Spencer took photos, and they said that was a lot of fun.

wall of deathSome other highlights of the day: the kids got to watch part of a live race (we watch Motot GP on TV all the time, but they have never been to a race before). The most exciting thing was to see the Wall of Death, where motorcyclist ride a bike around a small wooden “bowl”. Both kids thought that was awesome.  We walked around and got a lot of great photos of old bikes.

Today was considered a “easy rest day”, so by 1:30 we were done looking around and headed to our next stop for the night, Lima, OH.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that on the way to the hotel there was a super strong headwind, and I got horrible gas mileage.  I hit reserve at only 58 mi on the odometer. I was in a section that did not have any gas stations for quite a bit…so I was crossing my fingers to make it to the next gas station.  Well my luck ran out and it died about a mile before the exit. Not the best scenario but I was prepared! We had placed a small plastic gas can ( can I call it a can if it is plastic?) in the trailer, so I poured the emergency gas into the tank and got to the station. Not fun, but we survived.

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