Several months ago, I was asked if I'd like to attend a Colorado FreeWheelers meeting. It's held every third Thursday at Fay Meyers south of Denver. That's of course the first problem. Fighting with traffic to get south of Denver held little appeal no matter what the organization does. I also fail to attend the Colorado SAGE meetings when I have to fight traffic to attend. The second is a matter of time. It's not a waste of time per se, but it's time I could be doing other things that appeal to me.
So while I checked out their website, I didn't see much activity on their forums and if you check out the rider's standings, I didn't see much riding being done either so the group didn't seem to fit in with my own riding style.
A week or so ago, Herb (this is Herb:)
Herb commented that he was going on the Colorado FreeWheelers 1000-in-24. The group plans out a 1000 mile route, does a pre-run to check it out. Prints up a "passbook" with directions (the map is on the back of the provided t-shirt), notes of interest (construction, gravel roads, etc), and emergency phone numbers in case of a problem on the road.
I was interested, but only if I could get my bike ready in time. I needed a new chain mainly. I bought it from Motorcycle Superstore and even though I paid for the chain to arrive on Friday, it didn't arrive until Tuesday so I only had one more weekend to get it mounted. Then I had to get a chain tool since I was unable to attend a maintenance party. I got it done on the previous weekend and after checking with Rita (for scheduled weekend activities), I let Herb know I was able to go.
Herb asked if I'd be willing to ride with him. Just so you know, I'm really a loner and prefer to ride by myself. A lot of it is just being able to change things on the fly, stop when I wanted, and bail if necessary due to time or conditions. But since this was a set route and the purpose was to complete it in 24 hours or less, I thought it'd be cool to try it with a riding partner so I agreed.
Friday I hit the sack after getting the bike together; tail bag and tank bag along with the associated gear. I set the alarm for midnight and by 8pm I was in bed going to sleep. At 11:45pm, I woke up, took a shower, finished getting the gear put away and at 12:30, I was on the road and heading south. Now the pre-ride check began at 1am with the start of the ride running between 2am and 4am. Herb was one of the safety guys who checked the bikes and signed passbooks (start time and mileage for anyone attempting an IronButt certification). So we were going to be starting a bit after 2am.
I got there, got signed in, picked up a hat and pin (t-shirt to be mailed later due to being a walk-in), paid my money and headed out to check out the bikes. I didn't see anyone taking any pics so I pulled my camera out and tried to get some pictures of the beginning of the event.
While walking around, Matt from the Colorado Honda Sport Touring Association mailing list spotted me. We'd exchanged a couple of e-mails on the list. We chatted for a few minutes about his Honda (Nighthawk I think) and his adventures on his web site.
I walked around looking for decent shots and changed the settings on the camera to get a good picture. Of course, I had to set the camera down so there were some interesting shots of blurred people and stationary bikes. I saw a pretty good picture of someone parked on the side of the road on one of the bike sites and the cool thing was the taillights of the passing cars being captured by the camera. These are somewhat like this, but of course with blurred people :) . Check out the Harley with the blue highlights.
I tried setting the camera on the ground for a pic. The results are about what you'd expect.
Setting the camera on a trash can. Much better exposure.
As 2am rolled around, the group leader got up and advised everyone about the rules, caution about not riding beyond your abilities, stopping if necessary, and of course, reminding everyone about the emergency numbers and to call if you decide you can't make it and are stopping in a motel. He also reminded everyone that in addition to three receipts, you needed to get the gate receipt from Custer State Park and a receipt from Devil's Tower. A receipt from the Devil's Tower Trading Post was acceptible. I got a pic from the platform after he spoke then got ready to roll.
We left Fay Meyers and hit the gas station for the starting receipt. Herb's on a Yamaha Venture (1995 I think he said) and I'm riding my Suzuki Hayabusa. Herb and I discussed our riding styles and figured we'd be stopping about every 125 miles or so. I figured that was a comfortable break time, about every 90 minutes or so and Herb's bike only had a range of about 160 miles. I've ridden an entire tank once and it's no picnic. I can do about 175 before I start getting twinges so 125 to 150 is actually a good range.
Route 25 north was pretty quiet and fortunately the road closures weren't happening. We'd planned on stopped north of Cheyenne for the next gas stop. We were going to communicate but my Autocomm has been acting up and while I could hear, I wasn't able to communicate. Although I could interrupt the music by blowing into it so it was working, no one could hear me. I fiddeled with the connections and the squelch, nothing seemed to work.
It was warmish in Denver but as we got out of town and towards Wyoming, the chill started to kick in. We passed a few bikes and were passed by others. An event that occurred a lot in the next 20 hours. In Cheyenne I was planning on breaking out my Gerbings gloves and plug it all in but I saw that Herb continued on to 85 and we headed east. After about 20 minutes, I decided to pass and see if I could get Herb to pick up the pace a little. It was very dark and pretty much the only other riders were from the group. After a few minutes though, Herb was flashing his lights. I slowed down to let him pass but he just slowed behind me. Herb needed to know how far it was to the next town with a gas station. Since I'd gone this way just a couple of weeks ago, I thought the next gas was in Torrington which he didn't think he could make. We decided then to head back to the last gas station in Cheyenne.
On the way back, we stopped briefly on the side of the road and I got this shot of a bike heading towards us.
We got to the station, filled up and I plugged in my Gerbing's Jacket and gloves. It was a little fumbly due to the cold but I got together and we headed out again.
We got to Torrington and made the necessary left onto 26 then stopped for fuel at a little closed but self-serve station. We decided to hunt for a breakfast place either here or in Lingle and we also stopped to take a break at the next station. We got back on the bikes and headed on to Lingle.
As we're heading north in 85, the dawn was breaking. Just a little light to the east gradually spreading out. There was quite a bit of low lying fog even at one place where we had to drive through it. The weird thing was the lack of traffic. It was all pretty light for several hours. After the sun came up and burned off a bit of the fog, we were tooling down the road when I spotted several miles of straight away. I hunched down and throttled it up. Since the bike was in good shape, I wasn't thinking about something going awry. The last couple of times I'd done this, the rear was on its last legs or the chain was going. Something that kept me from opening her up. Herb said I just blew by him but I wasn't going all that fast at that time :) At the end of the straight away, I slowed down and he caught up giving me a thumbs up as he went by :)
We got to Lusk without seeing any eating establishments and stopped at a gas station to fill up. There were a couple on another bike and a couple of more bikes arrived after we were done filling up. I snagged a Hostess Apple Pie while I was there and Herb snacked on some stuff he brought along. After I moved my bike over to where Herb was, Bob showed up for some gas as well. He's riding a big Honda Goldwing. Herb introduced him and we all chatted briefly before heading out.
Our next turn was a Mule Creek Junction. I was behind Herb as we approached it. I hit my turn signal and watched as Herb kept going. I chased him down and got him turned around. I found out later than he had zoned out and was just following the road. We followed 18 east towards Hot Springs South Dakota. We passed into South Dakota without a Welcome sign but with warnings about passing law enforcement and helmets. At a fork for 89 north to Custer, I stopped to check the directions. There was a couple of guys on bikes that had made the turn and were stopped. Herb arrived and I verified that we were going to Hot Springs. He agreed and I headed off. Later the guys went by as we filled up and I recall seeing them when we were filling up in Lusk.
Route 385 north from Hot Springs was pretty cool and turned to gravel when we got to Wind Cave National Park. The fine pea gravel which makes such a fine road surface. Fortunately there were tracks where cars had pushed aside the gravel so it was pretty clear. I still was careful on curves making sure I followed the line. I'm guessing Herb was having a bit more trouble. I stopped every few minutes to make sure he hadn't gone down in the gravel waiting after curves until he arrived in my sight.
We got to Pringle and made the turn onto 89 north. When we got to the turn for Custer, I wasn't 100% sure of the direction so sat there momentarily until Herb arrived and we made the right instead of left. I'm always doing that :) . We got to another decision point, 16a went north and 16 went west. After a brief thought, I got behind a vehicle with a couple of young ladies riding in it. When the light changed, I had to beep the horn to get their attention. We blew by them after the light and headed north on 16. Next turn, 87 east.
Herb wanted to stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial to get a couple of pics. We spotted the turn and stopped at the entrance. We didn't want to go in. I'd already seen it and Herb just wanted a pic or two. We got our pics and the guy at the gate was nice enough to let us in in order to turn around at the next cut through.
On our way out of, we passed the two guys on the bikes as they stopped to get pics. We made the right turn and headed north again.
I must say, the organizers of this event picked some fine riding roads. I'd been down them before but on the Harley, not really made for carving corners. Going down 87 to 16 had some really awesome curves. Not too sharp (mostly) and they let me really enjoy riding the Suzuki.
As I came down the other side, really really enjoying the curves, I pulled in to a large paved area and waited for Herb to catch up.
I was doing that a lot during the twisties. I'd ride ahead enjoying the curves and scenery then wait at the end of a curve or on a straight away. With the power of the Hayabusa, I could cut a curve and pass the slower tourists without breathing hard and be able to totally enjoy the corners. Herb would find a longer place to pass and catch up.
The organizers warned us to be careful of animals, especially in this area. They'd encountered buffalo and the mules, which would block traffic. We were cautioned that we should be careful in passing these places since cars could and would stop. They'd taken 2.5 hours to traverse this loop with all the tourists so we needed to be careful.
After getting back on 16 east, we hit a couple of the corners and then stopped at the grocery store for a break. I grabbed a soda and Herb snacked out of his bag. We talked with a couple of other folks on the same ride.
This was the coolest part of this organized adventure. There were probably 50 bikes on the ride, but we weren't all together. There were small groups of riders. A couple of solo or two up riders and several two or three person ride teams. It was excellent that we were able to stop, spot a bike or two, see the Colorado tags and realize they were doing the same thing we were doing. We could chat from a common point of view. I was really impressed with this. It was a lot of fun without being overbearing.
After the break, we continued on up the next mountain. Again, some really cool twisties but since it was getting later, there were more tourists on the road. The worst ones were the buses on the 10 and 15 mph curves. Nothing like having half a bus in your lane and the space getting smaller and smaller.
At the box canyon at the top I pulled in and there was a family getting pics. I looked around without seeing the way out and was figuring I'd missed the turn when the guy with the camera pointed to his right (my left) and I was able to exit. I gave him a friendly wave and continued on. There were a couple of good camera spots for pics of Mt. Rushmore, but they were all on the road and I hate just stopping and blocking traffic so I kept going. At a scenic point, I pulled in to wait on Herb. I told him that I was waiting for him periodically (which he knew of course) and let him know that he was certainly able to stop where he wanted to get a pic and I'd just wait on him. Of course, if it took too long, I might have to double back to make sure he was ok :)
After getting the pic of Mt. Rushmore, we headed back to the bikes to bail and Bob arrived on his Goldwing. Herb made a joke with Bob that since Bob was here, we needed to leave. We'd done the same thing back at the gas station and again at the Grocery store :)
We continued on admiring Mt. Rushmore and enjoying the switchbacks and pigtails (the curves that looped back under themselves). There were a few drivers that refused to let us by so we'd just cut the corner or pass them on a long enough straight away.
To reassure my lovely wife let me explain. As everyone knows, passing on a double yellow can be pretty dangerous and yet, motorcyclists do that at an alarming (to a car driver) rate. The thing you might not realize or appreciate is the quick acceleration and agility of motorcycles and especially sporting bikes. Roads that are too dangerous for a car to pass someone on, is quite long for a motorcycle.
For me though, even though I do pass on double yellow, I'm very aware of the circumstances of the pass. Many places where another rider might pass, I wouldn't pass on. Places where a car can make a left or right turn (like a camping area) are not safe. The driver might be making a turn and cream you. Same with curves where I can't see far enough ahead to safely pass. I also watch the driver(s) ahead of me. If I see that they're cutting curves, I also won't make the pass and only pass on a shorter straight away. These and others are things I take into account before I make my pass.
We continued on 16 past Mt. Rushmore and through Keystone. We made the turn onto 385 and headed north to Deadwood. The ride was pretty scenic and there were some decent curves but with the additional traffic, it was difficult to really enjoy the road. It wasn't horrible and there were enough cars that'd pull over when they saw us but there were others that refused. Eh, what're you going to do?
We went through Deadwood which was pretty cool, spotting and waving at other riders. I let Herb know that I'd like to stop at a place in Sturgis for a quick bite and we headed off in search of lunch.
The road (14) to Sturgis was pretty cool but soon we approached a section of 14 marked as caution, heavy curves ahead. Oh boy! I was really surprised. These curves were the best so far. They were nice medium sweepers (curves that are wide rather than 15 mph hairpins) and I was able to really cut loose due to the light traffic.
I got to the bottom and stopped at the side of the road to capture a pic of Herb coming down the road.
We stopped at a Burger King to grab lunch. We both tried to call our spouses. Herb left a message and I wasn't able to get enough of a signal to get through. We saddled up and headed on down 90 to exit 17 which was 85 south to Deadwood. The road was nice heading to Deadwood but 85 south on the other side was much better. Nice big sweepers to make the road fun.
We got to the turn off for Spearfish Canyon road (Route 14 north) and headed up. Another very nice set of roads but with far too much traffic. We got behind a couple of trucks and a Buell. I politely waited for the Buell to pass on a couple of likely places but he didn't. So at the next curve, I started to pass and gave a toot as I got up to the Buell and continued on. I hit the next couple of curves nice and smooth and as I approached the next blocking group, I realized the Buell had made the pass as well and was in my blind spot. I kept exaggerating my look into the mirror until he got the hint and backed off a tad. I like to be able to see my tail rider so if he decides to pass, I won't hit him.
Next up was a car behind two bikes, one of which had a sidecar. They were really taking the curves carefully, as if the guy was driving a rig for the first time. I passed the car and then the two bikes (after mumbling about pulling over for a fellow biker of course). At the stopsign for Spearfish I stopped and the Buell rider came up next to me. I looked over and he flipped up his visor and started to talk but there were other folks behind us so I pulled out, damn near dropping the bike on some unseen road surface issue. The back tire spun about a half turn and the back end slid about 12 inches. Gave me a little scare. I pulled in to the gas station with the Buell coming up behind and Herb behind him.
After filling up I moved the bike and walked over to chat with him apologizing for passing him and for bailing at the stop sign when he wanted to talk. We talked about the 'busa and how comfortable it was. I got that from several people on the trip. Most folks seemed to thing that I was riding on my wrists and how could I stand it. When I explained my riding position and that I seldom rode on my wrists, they understood.
Herb and I bailed on to 90 and to Devil's Tower National Monument. At Sundance we made the turn where 14 split with 90 and headed up to the Monument. It was still as picturesque as when I rode through a couple of years back.
We stopped in at the Trading Post and grabbed a snack and receipts. There were a lot of other riders from our group as well as riders in general. We'd passed a nice turnout on 24 where there was a great photo op spot that I wanted to get. As we got ready to head to it, Bob arrived again :) We chatted briefly and I headed on up to the spot with Herb following.
This was the best picture of the whole trip. Even on the camera I got compliments on the framing of it. Another one for the "best pictures" page I'll be putting together.
Herb arrived and then Bob did. We all got some pics and Bob headed out. As I was getting ready, Herb started out and said I should try and catch up :)
I got the rest of the way together and started out at the tail end of a group of riders. Another group had already gone by while we were snapping pics. And unfortunately I hadn't plugged in the iPod. Normally not a big deal but I didn't want the cord hanging down to be caught by the chain or wheel. So I stopped briefly, plugged in the helmet system and put my gloves back on before heading off again.
I caught up with the rear of the group just at the 14 connection and made the right turn heading towards Moorcraft. The second group was where Herb was and they were bunched up behind a couple of trucks. It made for a very large passing margin. I passed all of the bikes, beeping my horn in warning and greeting to Herb. As I got up to the second truck, I could see another vehicle coming my way so I ducked in behind the lead truck. A mile or so later I was able to pass the first truck and I was on my way.
I took the next couple of miles of curves at a spirited pace and really enjoying the emptiness of the road. I'd noticed another rider a bit behind me and really pouring on the coal to catch me. As I came around a curve, I could see the first pack of bikes ahead with Bob way out front. As you can see from this next picture, The road was a very nice long straight road so I hit the throttle and accellerated past the group. As I approached the leader of this group, I spotted a short bit of freshly paved road repair. When I hit it, I'm sure the front end was briefly airborne. Heart beating hard, I passed Bob and kept going to the top of the next hill where I stopped, turned around and tried to get a couple of group pictures.
Here's Bob on his Honda Goldwing and waving.
I snapped a quick picture of the group as they approached because I didn't want the camera to shut off. The timing had to be just right to get a decent picture or two. You can see just how long this road is though. Nice and straight :)
And here's the group. Not a bad shot if I say so myself. I think the third bike back was the Honda that was keeping up with me and just next to him is Herb.
Herb pulled up and we chatted briefly. We came to the conclusion that I might have pissed off a couple of folks with the passing back at the beginning and we headed off.
We passed the second group of riders but didn't catch the first group or Bob until Newcastle. I was able to guage Herb's bike capacity by watching my gas guage. He was hurting when I got to half full and I'd just broken the full line so I figured we had lots of time and we kept going and headed south on 85.
As we're heading south on 85 and I came over a slight hill, I spotted a vehicle in the road ahead stopped. I saw a flash and the door was open. With the second flash I figured we were in deep doo-doo and though it was a cop with radar and he was signaling for us to stop. As we got closer though, I realized it was a flat bed truck and the driver was just checking his load. *Whew*.
A couple of miles later, an unmarked cop passed us in the opposite direction. We'd been doing 85 or so and again, we figured we'd tripped a cop. We slowed down looking in our mirrors to see if the guy turned around and spotted headlights way back. Damn! So while we didn't do 85, we slowed down to 70-75ish until we realized it was another bike. *Whew* yet again. When he passed us, I realized it was Bob and he was doing 90 so we wicked it up and kept up with Bob for quite a few miles. After a bit though, I realized that Herb was falling back. I'd been watching my guage and figured that he was having gas concerns. A few more miles later, I waved Herb past me so he could ride at a comfortable gas saving speed and I'd be sure of seeing him in case he ran out. While I hadn't brought my siphon on this trip, I vowed to add it to my riding list for next time :)
Every hill we passed and every sign we saw kept us in suspense. We got to Lusk without having to stop and gassed up at the station we stopped at earlier that morning. I found out that Herb and Bob were chatting on the CB so he was aware of the distance and conditions before we got to Lusk.
A couple of the ladies that were hanging around taking a break or gassing up chatted with us and with the other group that pulled in behind us. Unfortunately it was 3pm or so and we were still hours away from Denver so we were hurrying. We headed out and south, our next destination was Lingle and the gas station we'd stopped at earlier that morning.
As we approached Lingle, the second group of riders caught up and passed us. But a minute or so later, we spotted a cop car that had pulled two bikers over at the outskirts of Lingle. Of course we all slowed down and cruised through town and at the speed limit into Torrington and to the gas station. I wasn't going to gas up since I was just under full but I did want to take a break and maybe grab a bite since we weren't stopping for dinner being as it was a tad late. But the place was again closed. After gassing up, the two guys that got the tickets pulled in. Herb asked and the ticket was for 75+ which sucked mightily.
Since I still hadn't taken a break, we stopped at a rest stop south of town. As we were heading in, a guy stopped us and wanted to chat asking about my job and whether I had a degree. He had a friend that lived in Longmont and yadda yadda yadda. His wife was smiling knowingly and I was able to get away so I could head inside. When I stepped back out, he had climbed up to an 18-wheeler cab and was talking with the truck driver. We got our gear back on when he headed over to continue the conversation. I put my ear plugs in, hood on and helmet on, all the while nodding or briefly chatting. Eventually I hopped on the bike and gave them a beep on my way out.
As we left the rest stop, we hooked up with two other Colorado riders and stayed behind them for a bit. It was getting dark with the sun setting off to the west. They were going just a little slower than I wanted to go but I wasn't sure how fast Herb was willing to ride. We'd decided that we had enough gas to probably make it to Ft. Collins rather than stopping in at Cheyenne. After a bit I went ahead and passed them with Herb following.
At the 85/25 interchange we headed south to Colorado. Traffic was light but enough that I wasn't sure Herb was behind me so at the first gas stop, I pulled over to the shoulder to see if he followed. When he did, I realized it was Herb and headed back out again.
We got to the construction north of Colorado and behind a big semi. Since Herb had the shorter range and I wasn't sure how much farther he could go, I waved him by so he could pick the next stop for gas. We got to Wellington and pulled in to gas up for the last time. Several other bikes were around so we weren't last in returning :)
We pulled out and again headed south. I was in the lead for the first bit but Herb eventually passed. It was dark and I had dead bugs on my screen so it was a bit of a distraction. I was also getting a tad foggy which also impaired things a little. Herb led the way into Denver and he was flying. It was getting on to 10pm and we were going to get to Fay Meyers at 10:30 or so. The traffic in town was quite heavy and very aggressive. I was able to keep up but only by the skin of my teeth. I'm sure I wouldn't have quite been so aggressive but Herb knew what he was doing and we made it to Fay Meyers without incident.
I parked my bike, got an inspecter to check the time and ending mileage and headed upstairs to check in. I turned in my receipts for the Saddlesore 1000 certificate and chatted with a couple of the folks who were hanging around. It was noted that I was on the fastest bike in the run :) The guy on the Honda was there and he told me he was trying real hard to keep up but couldn't get the bike up to the speed I was going :) I grabbed a sandwich (subway, more bread than meat 6' sub) and a soda.
After I settled down a bit, I shook Herb's hand and waved goodbye to all and headed home. I got home at about midnight, almost 24 hours from when I woke up Friday night. I'd enjoyed the hell out of myself, enjoyed the company and truly enjoyed the ride and sights. I'd be willing to do that kind of ride again. But not until next year :)