Day 1: 08.02.16
It was 7:00 a.m. and I was at Buc-ee’s fueling up my trusty Dyna Defender for an adventure. If you’re not familiar with the name, Buc-ee’s is a giant convenience store with 60 or so gas pumps and every snack food you could imagine. It’s just one of the things that Texas has that is a bit larger than life. Four of my coworkers were there as well, and we were all in good spirits looking forward to the ride. Zach was on a custom Road Glide, Jay was on his favorite Road King that he has set up to his liking, Rob was on his daily ridden Softail that has ape hangers and a tall sissy bar giving it a chopper vibe, and Kirk on a borrowed Softail Slim. Kirk typically rides a sport bike, so this is his first outing on a Harley. The bikes are all loaded up, especially the ones without saddlebags. My bike is really loaded since I am carrying enough for two weeks, plus a video camera, camera, and laptop. I opted to risk getting my clothing wet before my gear, so I put the electronics in my saddle bags. But, I made sure to leave room for the 5 hats I brought. I can’t let them get ruined, that’s like $50 or so. My clothes, tools, and other junk went in to my two sissy bar bags which made wheelies pretty easy.
After some chit chat, we jumped on TX 114 West up to US 287 North. We took that up to Amarillo where the scenery was already starting to change from the flatness of the DFW area. We had to make a luggage adjustment because the front of Rob’s bike was too light with all of his gear plus my tripod. We added the tripod to Jay’s bike and were good to go.
We stopped at a “diner” in Amarillo and grabbed some lunch. If the service was a sign of things to come, we should have all just turned around and headed back home. After a lackluster meal we hit I-40 to Tucumcari, New Mexico where we exited on to a part of the old Route 66 for some fuel. There were lots of strange people at that fuel stop, and there was a functioning pay phone which creeped me out for some reason.
Not wanting to waste time in the 100 degree heat, we hit the road: NM 104 West to be exact. While riding, I saw signs for Las Vegas. I got excited when I saw one that read Las Vegas 97 miles. While I’ve never ridden to Vegas from Dallas, TX, it just seemed like it would be farther away. Well, 97 miles after that sign I found myself in the heart of Las Vegas. Las Vegas, New Mexico that is. No flashing lights other than the one hanging above the only intersection in town. Oh well, this trip wasn’t about going to Vegas; we were Sturgis bound and that was the only destination that mattered.
We fueled up and rode to Taos, NM where we found a motel with a restaurant and bar attached. It was perfect. We grabbed some food, had a nightcap, and caught some Z’s to get ready for the next day.
Day 2: 08.03.16
We all woke up early for breakfast, which was pretty decent as far as motel food goes. The sky was beautiful as the sun peaked it’s fiery head over the mountains. I took some shots of the bikes and video of the motel and all of the scenery surrounding it. I knew it was going to be a great day.
Not long after leaving the hotel, we came upon the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We had to pull over to take it all in. The view was out of this world. I’m guessing it’s a popular place to say goodbye to everything, as there was a crisis hotline call box on both sides of the bridge. A lone hot air balloon sat in the sky on the horizon which was the icing on the cake to a view I’ll never forget. We could have stayed forever, but Sturgis was going to go on even if we weren’t there. We took some photos and got back on the bikes.
We continued through New Mexico on US 64 West and US 84 to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We kept on trucking to US 160 and took it to Durango, CO. We stopped at Ben’s Big Burgers for a mouthwatering burger and fries to hold us over until the night.
Now up to this point the roads had been nice and the scenery pretty good, but now we were getting on to US 550 North. This ride was the bee’s knees. There were nothing but crazy elevations with super smooth roads that were perfectly banked curve after curve. Somewhere near the peak it started raining and it got a bit cold, but I still loved every minute of it.
We rode though Silverton, Ouray, and in to Montrose where we pulled over to do some repairs. On one of the bikes, the bolt that holds the tag bracket and taillight backed out. Seems like an easy fix, other than having to take off all the luggage and remove the fender to do so. While the other guys tackled that, I worked on my rear brake. I knew it was low on fluid and planned on changing it before the ride, but completely forgot to. That simple mistake could have been detrimental since my rear brake failed while coming down the mountain. I added fluid and pumped some bubbles out. It felt good, well better at least.
With everything buttoned up we hit US 50 East. While this wasn’t as technical, the long sweepers made it a blast. It’s the type of road that someone could allegedly go triple digits and still drag exhaust. Kirk and I may have had more fun than the others on this stretch. It wasn’t just hooliganism that made it a nice ride; the scenery was great too. Going over the Blue Mesa Reservoir was picturesque to say the least. After another fuel stop we started jamming up US 285 to Leadville and hopped on to CO 91 East as the sun was setting. CO 91 led us into a dark, rainy animal infested area called Copper Mountain. Visibility was minimal and our earlier speeds had been reduced to less than half of the speed limit. I was relieved to see I-70 east which would lead us to Dillon, CO where we had rooms reserved. About a mile in all the headlights behind me disappeared as I went around a curve. I pulled over and waited for a bit, but nobody came. I doubled back to find that Rob’s bike had stopped running. I pulled the plug wire and he hit the ignition. There was a faint spark at first, but then went away completely. It seemed like the battery was low. We were close to the rooms, so two guys went ahead to check in and then see if they could find cables. Trying to start simple, we pulled the luggage and seat and checked the battery. The ground had vibrated loose. It was a quick fix and she fired right up. We loaded the gear back on the bike and headed up the road. I guess delirium had set in at this point, because instead of following us, (which would have made sense being that I had the hotel address in my navigation) Jay exited when he saw a sign that said the name of the town we were going to. We waited for him for a bit and then called him. I sent him the hotel address and we headed to our home for the evening. Jay eventually showed up and we went out hunting for food. A little brew pub in the town of Dillon had a great stout and pretty dang good fish and chips. After a couple of brews and a good meal we were all ready to hit the hay.
Day 3: 08.04.16
A hot shower started the day right. I walked out of my room and could see the beautiful lake. That was peaceful place. I walked up to where breakfast was served, and I quickly ate my food so that I could have time to bleed my brakes before we started the last leg of our journey. I bled out the brakes, and the hotel even provided me with a rag to clean up with. That was pretty thoughtful of them. I loaded up my bike, took some pictures and video, and got ready to do some miles.
We took US 6 over Loveland Pass. More awesome twisty roads and crazy elevations were in store for us. I came in hot on a curve that said slow to 20MPH and realized that the sign wasn’t joking. Slight pucker moment, but I pulled through. I admit that I wasn’t quite as aggressive after that, but I still had fun.
We took US70 towards Empire, CO and then US 40 West over Berthoud Pass. We rode through Winter Park and in to Gamby, CO. Next up was US 34 East. We rode right in to Rocky Mountain National Park where we experienced over 12,000’ elevation. Again, we had to pull off for pictures as it was just too beautiful. The temperature had dropped to about 38 degrees and it was starting to rain. We headed out and went through Estes Park into the town of Loveland where we had some delectable gas station hot dogs.
We had been taking the beautiful, scenic route for the majority of the ride, but now it was time to knock out the rest of the miles and get to Sturgis in time for dinner… or so we thought. We headed up I-25 North towards Cheyenne, WY, our next planned stop. Zach’s Road Glide decided it was thirsty and the injector got stuck open, filling the engine with gas, which shut down the ECU. This was not a roadside fix, and it was getting late. We tried to rent a truck to no avail. We called ahead to our friends in Sturgis, and our buddy Ian headed our way with a truck and trailer. We pushed Zach’s bike to a sub shop, and he waited there for Ian. We had 5 hours to go and were running out of daylight.
Normally I like riding at night. The temperature is usually more comfortable and the traffic is thinner. However, In Wyoming and South Dakota there are giant animals that play in the road. We wanted to avoid them, because it’s hard when you can’t see them. We hammered down after grabbing some so-called Mexican food, passing tons of deer and other deer like creatures that were wanting to attack us for invading their land. Okay, maybe that part was in my head, but there were tons of animals, and I did not want to hit one. We decided to avoid the last mountainous stretch and took the straight road instead. Kirk was staying in Spearfish, so we pulled over and made plans to meet at breakfast. He headed to his house, and we headed to our place in Sturgis. We showed up at dark, but the street lights lit up enough to unload. We all made our calls to let everyone know we were safe. Zach let us know that Ian picked him up and would be there in about 5 hours. Without showering, I walked to a bar and had a couple of beers to unwind. We had arrived, and this rally was already getting started. The next day we would start working at our various jobs at the rally until it was time to pack up and make the return trip. Over the course of the rally we addressed all of our mechanical issues to make sure we had a trouble-free ride home. Other than traffic and temperatures, it was just that.
Five guys: Zach, Kirk, Rob, Jay, and myself, Pauly, all took a 1,000 mile ride and turned it into 1,729 miles of adventure. We went from blistering hot sunshine to frigid rain, beautiful scenery to barely being able to see in front of us, and elevations from just above sea level to over 12,000’. This is a trip we will never forget and brought five guys from coworkers to friends. We all knew each other before, but you never know someone like you do when you’ve road tripped with them.
Until next time, ride safe, but enjoy it all…