It's 11PM central time as I sit in a Day's Inn in Wendover, Utah after a hard days ride through a heat that I do not have words to describe. "Blast Furnace in the face." is the best, albeit sorely lacking, analogy I could come up with. The thermometer on my Oil Burner hovered between 100 and 110. Needless to say, I don't do well in the heat, but I managed to get through it without too much complaint.
Some many weeks ago, the original plan was to ride to Deals Gap for a week . Yun decided that he wanted to do a cross country trip to Seattle after the Gap and asked if I would join him. He thought that having me along would make things a bit easier, safer and would allow him to avoid some of the more common first-timer mistakes. It made sense to me. I had been planning to ride the Trans Am Trail in August but I figured since I'm not doing much constructive with my life that I could afford the time. So I agreed. Since then, I've decided to postpone the Trans Am Trail trip. I may yet do it, but it's likely that it won't be for quite some time.
In the three years since the Great Deadhorse Trip, much has changed, but unfortunately much has stayed the same. I had thought returning Out There, where I seem to do so well, would give me some much needed time to think. Big decisions are looming large in my near term future and I'm either going to make some changes or some changes are going to be forced upon me soon. It's weighing pretty heavily on me. As it's turned out, however, this hasn't been an introspective thinking trip. This is Yun's trip and I'm largely along to help. Not quite tour guide nor really a mentor but maybe as-needed guidance and company. This dominates my focus. On the Deadhorse trip, being alone and spending all those hours thinking about this thing that I do, this motorcycling, enabled me to focus more on those following these words, you. While many have hoped I'd be able to write the way I did before, I fear I'm a disappointment. There's so little time left in the day to write and I am so very tired.
Three weeks isn't enough time to see the country and make it out to Seattle and back and leave much time for anything else. Tonight Yun and I talked about how a two or three week trip would be needed just for Colorado. I've been surprised how quickly he's changing his preconceptions on motorcycle travel. It took me much longer.
We tend to spend more time on the road and when we're not on the road we've been engrossed in involved conversations. Yun is a very intelligent man with perspectives that are so far removed from my own that often I miss the points that he's trying to make. After these many days on the road, I've come to understand that he sees things from a point of view that I've never encountered or at least never understood.
Many say it's important to know yourself. I have often said that's irrelevant. It's important to know how you are different from others so that you can better bridge that gaps between people. It takes time and effort and most shy away from making that effort. I certainly used to do this as Duncan can attest. Most would rather spend their time around those who see the world exactly as they do than put in the time and effort to understand how someone could see the world differently. The difficult thing, the time consuming thing, is to put in the effort to really understand and empathize with those that are radically different. I suspect few do this to any great degree, but I could be wrong.
This trip and it's many conversations has highlighted more along these lines than I would have imagined. I'll return home with more to think about than when I left. This is the kind of thing that long distance motorcycling tends to bring out. To get to know someone much better travel many miles with them on two wheels.
Yun has a short list of must see places. Pikes Peak. Bonneville Salt Flats. The First Starbucks in Seattle. We've joked that we should name this trip the "In Search of Origin" trip since it's likely to culminate in a visit to the very first Starbucks.
We had arrived in Colorado Springs the night before and failed to go up the mountain because it was closed. So we decided to go up it the next day. Our plan had been to take an easy morning to recover. I would write to catch up and we would take care of odds and ends including laundry. There was a bit of a snafu which ended up taking a huge amount of time. There was only one washer in the hotel and I mistakenly completely forgot to move the laundry to the dryer blocking the efforts of this strangely super-fit young woman. She overheard me talking to Yun about how I had completely spaced moving things to the dryer. She walked up and mentioned that she had moved things and gave us a few quarters to make up for it. I thought it was a very nice gesture especially from someone so young. She couldn't have been much more than a teenager. Yun saw this event in a completely different light and that led to an hours long conversation where we carefully compared perspectives and tried to discern what was going on.
It's taken me forever, but I have learned to recognize when someone is reacting strongly to some event that seems minor that more often than not they are not reacting to the present event but instead to some past event that they carrry with them. We all carry our scars forward and let them color our world. As we get older, we have more scars and our world becomes more colored to the point that it becomes black. Being open becomes so much more difficult.
I can feel that I too have become much less open. It troubles me.
After an insightful and long conversation, we decided to get underway and go up this mountain that I have ridden up 3 times before. Familiarity breeds contempt and, I realized, Pikes Peak has become so familiar that it no longer holds that emotional impact that it once had, even just three years ago. Something is different.
The sun was glaring down on us but we knew, because I have seen it before, that it would be pretty cold on the top.Today we would ride into the mountains together for the first time for real.
From Colorado Springs Pikes Peak is no distance. 25 minutes later we had paid our entrance fee and were making our way up the mountain when suddenly my bike started losing power. It would feel like it was stalling and then catch and go for a bit then start feeling like it was stalling again. I had seen this happen before on a different kind of vehicle, my boat. On the boat it had turned out to be a clogged fuel filter. I figured it was probably the same in this circumstance. I thanked my former self for having the foresight to pack a spare filter.
I'd been up the peak 3 times before. There's only one way up and back, so I told Yun he should go ahead. I feared, despite my belief it was just a filter, that maybe my Beloved Blue Oil Burner, had finally developed a serious problem that might leave me stranded. I would hate for that to derail Yun's attempt to go up the mountain. After a few questions, he went on and I turned around and rolled to a rest area near the bottom of the mountain.
At least there were restrooms there but no shade. It was pretty hot and the sun was intense. I pulled off enough gear to get at my tools and proceeded to pull off the filler cap. I had nitrile gloves with me. I once again thanks my former self for being so prepared. The fuel filter is in the gas tank and it's held on by a couple of hose clamps. It was also completely submerged in gasoline.
I honestly thought nitrile gloves would protect against the gasoline for much longer. 15 to 20 seconds at most. I managed to replace the filter but it took half a dozen gloves and I got pretty good and exposed. Not Good(tm). I found myself wondering how much lifespan I shaved off by effectively dipping my hand in gasoline. But I managed to get the filter replaced and the machine has run perfectly since.
I chuckled as I thought of a comment someone made to a similar post about the boat. "This is the age of getting shit done."
Yes, it is.
Just as I was getting ready to leave this guy walked out of the woods and asked me whether or not this was the Pikes Peak road.
He told me his name but I have, of course, completely forgotten it. He had two gopro cameras on, one facing forward the other back. He had not been to civilization in over a month and a half.
He walked off and as I was putting my jacket on an older gentleman on a BMW R1200RT rolled up. He was trying to take photos so I asked him if he would like me to take a photo for him. He declined and then asked me, "Have you come all the way out here on that antique?". "Why yes, I have." I replied thinking that it's not quite an antique yet. (This is why Rob has given it the name Oil Burner. In this view, at the time my machine was produced, oil powered locomotives were all the rage ...)
I put on my helmet and fearing that I had left Yun to his own devices too long, got on it a bit. I confess, I sinned. It was not a terrible sin, but the 5mph traffic ahead of me was, well, terribly slow and they wouldn't move over. I will atone for my sins.
Yun was waiting for me half way up.
"I saw you come up. That was pretty awesome." he said. I was a bit embarrassed by having my sin witnessed.
We rode to the top. I led the rest of the way up. The switchbacks where all you see are clouds seemed to stress Yun. Because he has learned so much so quickly I often forget that he's only been riding for 2 years. Going up Pikes Peak on a motorcycle for the first time can be challenging and stressful. It seemed to take a lot out of him.
By the time we got to the top I was feeling the effects of having been in the sun too long. The air is thin and we had been doing too much walking around. I started feeling rather poorly, but we continued to look around.
The crowds were too much. "Go outside. I'll take care of this." Yun said. I walked outside and came across this bike, a Honda V65 Sabre. I rode an identical bike, except with red accents, up this very peak in 1991. It was in very good condition.
You just don't see many of these any more. They had some common issues that killed most of them.
We hung out at the top and took more photos. The weather was simply beautiful.
This next photo is more or less straight down.
So Yun suggested that we try to reproduce the shot from the last time I was up here.
We failed miserably.
Yun on top of the mountain. (Sporting an M-BY-MC baseball cap.)
Me on my Beloved Blue Oil Burner.
It came time to leave and we headed back down the mountain. The switchbacks heading back down can be challenging. Then we saw them. Mountain Goats.
The plan had been to make our way up to Mount Evans Road that same day. John St John has strongly suggested the road. It's supposed to be the highest paved road in the US. On our way there were found a road, Route 67 off of 24 that was simply incredible. This is a road that I can highly recommend. It's twisty scenic and just wonderful.
There was remnants of a forest fire.
There were ominous clouds.
In the end the GPS lied to us again. We came across a sign that seemed to indicate that Mount Evans Road was closed. Then it seemed there was a detour so we followed it for some many miles. We decided to try to find lodging but the GPS sent us on another wild goose chase. Along the way we saw these critters. Big Deer? Elk?
We looped back around to the detour sign. There were some locals out for a stroll. Yun talked to them and confirmed the road to Mount Evans was still open.
And with that we departed in search of food and lodging, which has become a daily ritual. We would attempt to check out this Mount Evans the next day and then head to points West. Little did we know what we would find.
We made our way to Idaho Springs, Colorado. The section we ended up in was pretty desolate and everything was closed. We got one of the last rooms available and bought some food at a nearby Safeway. That was dinner.
The next morning we went over the bikes as we always do. We checked the tire pressures, checked the oil. Yun's bike has been burning, IMHO, a fair amount of oil. Strangely, my bike, for the first time ever, is not.
(Oil level after 2000 miles. Strange.)
Idaho Springs does have a redeeming value. There is a Starbucks there.
I have found myself thinking more than once that there is too much familiar in cross country travel now. In the good 'ol days, you would have no choice but to go to local coffee shops, if any were available. You would have no choice but to venture into the unfamiliar.
But the country has become so homogenous. It's so easy to gravitate to the familiar since it's present everywhere but I fear that we lose something in the process. It's nice to be able to go to Starbucks and know what to expect no matter where you are in the country. But it's also nice to be forced to go outside of one's comfort zone to explore new unfamiliar places.
After some time we head to the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, route 103. They are not kidding, it is scenic.
A twisty wonderful little road.
After about 14 miles you come to the entrance of the park proper. The road up to the summit is 14 miles. We've done Pikes Peak, this should be no problem. The map did show some interesting switchbacks ...
Before we knew it we were on a small two lane road. "There were no guardrails!" Yun exclaimed later. "Yea, guardrails are bad for motorcyclists, so they make sure not to put any there, especially not in any of the corners." I said wryly.
Mount Evans road is so much more engrossing, beautiful, expansive, dramatic, and challenging than anything Pikes Peak has to offer.
Two lanes. Pavement ends right at the edge of the dropoff. Crazy inclined switchbacks up literally into the clouds. Simply awesome.
The summit was literally in the clouds. There was a small parking area. Clouds would flow over and around us and occasionally we could see down to the depts below.
There were mountain goats to be seen.
There were the warning signs.
Ignoring all the warnings, we followed the footpath and scrambled our way to the top. On the way up, I met an SV650 rider from Colorado Springs. I, of course, have forgotten his name.
I caught a photo of him as he left that I thought was pretty good.
Yun has so many more photos of this than I do. We took photos and video coming back down the mountain. I hadn't really considered it while we were doing it, but Mount Evans Road is likely the most challenging and arguably dangerous road we've ridden. Multiple thousand foot drop offs right where the pavement ends. Crazy tight inclined switchbacks. Clouds. Cold. Wind.
The photos I have here do not do it justice. I will have to find time to post some more.
There's so much more I wanted to write. Yun talked about how if he had thought about it ahead of time he would never have done this road. "Logically, it's too dangerous, but I wasn't afraid. Is that me, the me that's not afraid, the real me? This road, even though it was so much harder was an easier time for me." he said.
We went back to Idaho Springs for lunch. There was a pinball Bar and Grill that I think Duncan might have enjoyed.
We descended out of the mountains and headed West towards the Bonneville Salt flats, another destination Yun definintely wanted to see. We decided to take route 9 off I70. It was a BMW MOA recommended route. It starts out slow and conjested and turns into a simply beautiful road.
The landscape changed repeatedly.
We rode until sunset.