Monday, August 1, 2011

Wild West By the Numbers

OK, so that's about it for this year's adventure.  We're glad you rode along, and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  We'll leave you with some final statistics:

14,130 - feet above sea level

4,954 - miles

418 - pictures

152 - songs on my iPod

umpteen - bottles of water

15 - US states

11 - new Harley shirts

3 - parts replaced on the road (broken oil filler cap, burned out headlight, worn out tire)

3 - parking lot garbage bucket bike washes

3 - bottles of cherry vodka

2 - soul mates

1 - hell of a great time

Things We Think You Should Know

The Great Plains really are plain. 

The difference between Iowa and Nebraska is that in Iowa, there is corn on *both* sides of the road.

When tar snakes bake in the sun all day, they really get your attention when you're leaned into a turn.  They instantly move the bike out a couple inches, and set you up with a nice bobble through the bars.  I don't think they could crash you even if you were stupid, but they sure wake you up.

The "Barnyard" as served in Byers, CO is 3 beef patties, cheese, lettuce, pickle, ham, bacon, and fried egg.  If you eat it all, they will name it after you (ostensibly until the next person does it.)

There is no "Klinger Barnyard" special in Byers, CO.

In many old towns that still thrive, such as Cheyenne, you can ride down Main Street (which is usually a US higway) and take a trip through time as the town expanded.  In the center of town are the ornate brick Hollywood movie sets, with signs painted right on the brick and maybe even with gold leaf lettering in the store windows.  A little further out is 50's glass-block-and-neon architecture.  Keep going, and you hit Wal-Mart.  Neat.

If you are traveling through wide-open spaces, and range is a concern (say, as when you're riding a Sporster with a 3-gallon tank) you're better off staying along the railroad tracks.  Many US highways follow them, and those that do seem to have a much better chance of having had towns spring up along the line.  Sometimes, that's all you need.

In Wyoming, "subdivision" means 10-acre building lots.

Every road has a gate so that it can be closed in bad weather.  Doesn't matter if it's an Interstate highway; they just make it 3 lanes wide.  There's the arm, a flashing light, and a sign that says "Road Closed - Return to ___ (insert town name here.)  That's it.  You're parked - hotel, convenience mart, or not.  Deal with it.

The craziest one was about 50 miles outside the tiny town of Lusk, WY, where US 18 & 85 split.  The sign said, "Return to Lusk." Damn, dude - that was 50 miles back!  If the road's that bad, what makes you think I'm going to get there?

There is a product called Butt Paste.  That's all I have to say about that.

You are much less likely to need tools if you actually carry them.

A motorcyle can lose as much as 10 mpg into a headwind.

There are places where they can close one lane of an interstate highway with absolutely no consequence whatsoever.

Traffic sucks.

Chicks dig cowboys.


In line to pay at a vendor booth at Cheyenne Frontier Days, I ended up in conversation with a newlywed couple who were excited to learn we were from the East Coast.  When I told him we had ridden our bikes, he said they saw the coolest thing near the main gate - a bike from Pennsylvania all rigged up for the road with handwritten directions on the gas tank.

Hello, nice to meet you.

They actually shook my hand.  You'd have thought I was Elvis.  Interestingly, they wouldn't be the only ones to think my magnetic tank bag was the coolest thing since, well, you know.  It's a little console / glove compartment thing that holds the stuff you need to get at and has a clear plastic pocket on the top for maps.  I ordered it out of a catalog.  Honestly.  They make all different kinds.

We're proud of our Iron Butt Association license plate frames that we earned for submitting documentation of our having ridden 1,000 miles in 24 hrs or less.  You don't see them very often.  We like parking side-by-side and looking at them as we walk up to the bikes.  At the Boondocks, the bizarre 50's / Hollywood place in the Black Hills, we pulled in and parked right next to a row of bikes that all had them.  In fact, every bike in the parking lot did.  We watched them notice ours when they left.  We thought that was pretty cool.

Donna went potty at 12,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park, and had cool air blow up her ass in the latrine.  She thought that was pretty cool.

It was great to see friends so far from home.

I washed my bike in a torrential lightning storm. In hindsight, that was pretty dumb.

We ate dinner in a whorehouse in Deadwood, SD.

We had Cherry Mash for breakfast one day.

In Crown Point, IN, we toured the jail that Dillinger escaped from.  He stole the sheriff's car to get away.  I got to tell the tour lady that I had just a week ago met the son of the guy who changed points in that car in Missouri.  Also, Donna stood in the exact cell Johnny Depp did when filming Public Enemies.  I still don't think she's quite recovered from that.

Leaving McCook, NE, we didn't get 10 miles out of town when we encountered a *large* deer standing in the middle of the road.  From a distance, I thought it was an ill-placed advertisement because it looked perfect and didn't move.  Donna wasn't expecting me to clamp on the binders, but it took off at the last moment and had no friends following him. 

10 miles later, two 30-lb turkeys were grazing on the left side of the road and decided way too late to lumber skyward on our approach.  The dumb one came right across my path and I nicked him with my windshield.  Donna missed me that time, too.

We waited for things to come in threes, but thankfully, they did not.
Wind turbine blade in transit on I-80


Part of the charm of heading out on the road is the characters one comes across who make a lasting impression on us.  The first one was Gary Parita, from Paris Junction, KS.  He was the guy who owned the restored gas station on Rt 66, and all the relics that made up that panorama.

Looking to be in his 70's, but sharp as a tack, he was a humble man who honestly was glad you took the time to stop in and say hi, and who was happy to tell you about the Mother Road for as long as you wanted to sit and listen.  Which was a long time, because he had so many fascinating things to share.  Over the course of a half hour, he steered us to the most enchanting places along our way, gave us free water or pop or whatever we wanted, and made two new friends.  His daughter said he was the most photographed man in Missouri.  You really should click the Picasa link at right and look at the pictures (Day 3.)

It's becoming a pattern to me that curators of the American past are some of my favorite people.

In Badlands National Park, which for all the world looked and felt like the Arizona desert, we ambled out of the outpost with an honest gallon of water, none of which made it out of the parking lot.  There, we were hooked up with some funky pills by a bohemian California couple in a monstrosity of a rig made out of a gargantuan olive green Mercedes-Benz military truck with a camper grafted to it, a spare tire the size of Godzilla's life preserver, and a Yeti cooler that supposedly could keep ice frozen on Satan's front porch or soemthing like that.  Everything to survive nuclear war, but no air conditioning.  We accepted the handful of Thermotabs graciously, which were supposed to replace all the stuff Gatorade does, without the calories and food coloring.  I took one with every bottle of water that day.  I'm still here.

We also ran into a small group of middle-aged "bikers" in near Devil's Tower, 3 couples riding spotless bikes with out of state plates, all wearing Harley t-shirts from dealers within a 50-mile radius.  We don't like to look down our noses at people, but that always gives us that little smirk.  We go into town and look for the trailer.

Pretty much all the employees at Maverick Cycles in Cheyenne suck.

On Route 66, we kept running into this couple stopping to take the same pictures we were.  We waited and took turns, then we finally struck up a conversation in Red Oak.  They were from Spain and spoke better English than many Americans.  They were on holiday in America, doing the entire route in a rental car.  I think the two dusty, bug-specked bikers added to their experience.

One of the employees at Mile-High H-D saw the back of my Space Coast (FL) Harley shirt, and walked up to ask me if I was from Florida.  I told him no, I'm from Pennsylvania.  He asked where.  Turns out he *used* to live in Florida, but also lived a few miles from us and worked in the Harley dealership just down the pike, where Donna remembered talking to him.  How's that for convoluted?

The alpaca guy, we didn't meet.  But that's probably just as well.

Things That Are No Longer Novel

Things that were neat for a while but no longer capture our fancy:
  • Windmills (the Little House on the Prairie well pump kind)
  • Big Cows
  • Little Cows
  • "You want that in a sack?"
  • Oil Derricks
  • Dirt Roads
  • "No Services Next 75 Miles"
  • Wind Turbines (the Amalgamated Energy Corp kind)
  • Ooh, there's a car coming the other way.
  • ... 30 seconds... Ah, maybe it's just a mirage
  • ...30 seconds... Nope, it's definitely a car coming
  • ...30 seconds... Actually, it's a pickup towing a horse trailer
  • ...30 seconds...  Whoosh
  • ...30 minutes... "Look at the cows"

Memories From the Top Of the World

We got to see a lot of incredibly beautiful scenery over the last two weeks, plenty of historic, offbeat, and significant sights.  It's hard to call one kind of splendor more splendiferous than another, kind of in the same way you love all your kids equally.  But that Friday in the Rockies was really something else.  Awesome by its true defninition - we honestly stood mouth agape in awe of nature's majesty.

Heading out of Denver, there was the WTF? moment of 2 alpacas standing in a passenger van working its way through Boulder traffic.  There was the grandeur of the towering peaks after days on end of grassland; the cool, crisp blue sky after riding through a heatwave.  We rose steadily through canyons, pine forests, crystal-clear lakes of fresh snowmelt, to the awesome sight of peering from rocky peaks thousands of feet down into lush green alpine valleys.  We made snowballs in July.  By the end of the day, 10,000-foot passes and the views they afford had become almost routine.  We saw mountain goats and sheep and God knows what else.  Then, after leaving the National Park, we had a once-in-a-lifetime moment in the tony ski resort town of Winter Park.

Ever since our trip through Maine and Canada, Donna has been obsessed with seeing a moose.  She even made me take pictures of her next to signs warning you not to hit them (as if that's necessary.)  Moose, moose, moose.  Now, here we were again, having just gotten through Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park, and no sign of a moose.  Donna was heartbroken.

Then, as the last traffic light in town turned green and we pulled out, Donna must have subconsciously wondered why no cars had proceeded through in the other direction and instead just sat there.  She looked to her left, freaked out, and yelled for me, a yell I had never heard before.  I turned around to see her eyes as big as golf balls and her mouth wide open.  A moose!  A huge, hairy, freakin' moose! He was just moseying across the intersection like he was going for a Starbucks and to hell with everybody (which, based on his size, was pretty much his prerogative.)  I couldn't buy that moment for a million dollars.  Neither of us could stop smiling.

From there, we went to Mount Evans and up the highest paved road in North America.  We scared ourselves half to death scaling that narrow, cliff-hanging, frost-buckled strip of asphalt, too nervous to look anywhere but straight ahead.  I can't explain the rush of doing that on a bike (or even a car) unless you've done it yourself.  We parked the bikes at 14,130 feet and caught our breath, amused by the mountain goats wandering around where not even crabgrass can survive.  At that point, neither of us was motivated to climb the trail up the remaining 110 feet to the summit.

We've done a lot of cool things, but that was truly an epic day that neither of us will ever forget.