Colorado Springs

(Colorado Springs is the second of four trips taken as part of Iron Butt Association’s National Parks Tour (NPT), where I visited at least 50 national parks, monuments, historical sites, etc., in at least 25 states in one year.)
 
 
BTH 5-7-09       
 
Greetings from Amarillo, Texas!  I’m on my way to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to hear a speaker/author and visit my best friend from high school, Candy.  It will all be short and sweet, pretty much up and back, definitely not a big adventure like Death Valley, but hopefully I’ll find a few good stories for y’all.
 
I’m traveling to Colorado to see Lois Pryce, who is here in the USA from London and promoting her work.   She’s written two remarkable books about her mostly solo 20,000-mile motorcycle trip from Alaska to the southernmost tip of Argentina and mostly solo 10,000-mile trip through Africa.  You cannot believe her resourcefulness, spirit of adventure and determination, independence, and pure guts.  To top it all off, she’s hysterically funny.  With titles like “Lois on the Loose” and “Red Tape and White Knuckles,” you know you’re in for a fun ride! 
 
There is no world leader, movie star, or famous musician I’d ever go this far to see (Well, okay, maybe Johnny Depp!), but I simply MUST meet Lois while she’s here!  I hesitate to tell y’all about her, because if any of you read her book(s), you’ll think Biketrash Holiday is about as exciting as your grandmother’s car ride to church, but so be it. 
 
Left Austin early this morning  in an attempt to beat the heat, which turned out to be a smart move.  It didn’t get hot until the clouds cleared off around 1:00, but then the asphalt heated quickly.  I was not looking forward to this ride to Amarillo, but, surprisingly, it was very green with a respectable amount of wildflowers.   Scissortail flycatchers entertained me the entire 500 miles with their incredible acrobatics and spring breeding colors. 
 
One nice thing about riding today was not having to anticipate what clothing I’d need for what temperature.  Started warm and ended hot, so simply wore the mesh outer touring pants and jacket.  Tomorrow morning will start off in the fifties and probably won’t ever get particularly warm by the time I reach Colorado Springs.  Guess I’ll have to pull out those liners so neatly tucked away.  What girl doesn’t love extra layers added to the armor already stacked on her hips and ass?  Ooh, can’t wait!
    
Tomorrow I gain an hour, which is great news since there are a couple sights to see before having to be at the book store at 5:00, when I’ll also meet up with Candy.  
 
Peace on the Road!
BT
 
 
BTH 5-9-09
 
Greetings from Colorado Springs, Colorado.  It’s been a busy two days so there is a lot to tell you.   
 
Got a fairly early start in Amarillo on Friday, 5-8-09.  Man, is that place ever windy!  And it’s not so much the steady wind, per se, but the abrupt wind gusts that can move you six feet over in your lane if you drop your guard!  I say that like it’s unusual for the Panhandle, huh?  It’s actually very green there right now, which is nice, but not many wildflowers. 
 
By the way, nothing says Dalhart, Texas, like a mosaic-tile-Lone-Star-flag cow in front of a Valero station.  Asked the cashier if there was some story behind it and she said, “Oh, honey, my boss just likes them.”  So there you go!
 
 
Stopped at Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.   This place is freakin’ cool!      
 
 
This is a picture of  some person with wind-blown helmet hair on the rim of the volcano.  It’s a little hard to see in the picture, but the mesa-looking lines of rocks coming out of that disheveled person’s ears and over her shoulders are lava flows.  The volcano is part of the national monument, but the lava flows are on private property. 
 
 
The next picture looks down into the crater, which, of course, has been plugged for thousands of years.  You walk down a very steep paved path and it’s much more visually dramatic in person.  Unfortunately, you’re not able to see the bottom of the crater from up on the rim, which is much higher than this vantage.   You can’t believe how incredible it is to actually be standing in a volcano crater.  By the way, it’s far from inactive down there.  There is quite a variety of plant life and three rufous-sided towhees were ferociously battling it out with song!
 
 
If any of you do decide to visit Capulin, I wouldn’t advise doing it during the summertime.  The road up the side of the volcano is very steep and narrow with hardly any parking at the top.  I can’t imagine how they accommodate the summer crowd.
 
The rest of the ride was great.  You know, it’s amazing to leave the Texas Panhandle and six hours later be in the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, but here I am.  Went directly to the Poor Richard’s Bookstore in Colorado Springs to meet up with Lois and my friend Candy, who I haven’t seen in person in 12 years.  There weren’t many people there, so we got to talk quite a bit with Lois and share some pizza with her.  Lois is personable, funny, and gave an entertaining talk. 
 
Candy admitted she thought I was crazy to come all this way for a book signing, but changed her mind after the presentation.  At one point, during a story from Africa, I looked over and saw her jaw hanging open in amazement! 
 
This next picture shows Candy, Lois and me.  That’s Lois in the front. 
 
 
Saturday 5-9-09 Lois made another presentation, but this time it was at Adventure Headquarters here in Colorado Springs.  The talk was similar to the one she gave yesterday, but today her language was, well, a bit more spicy and detailed.  Guess she dropped her guard around the heathen bikers.  
 
Adventure HQ is a cooperative of dual-sport motorcycle riders, which means they ride specially made motorcycles that can go on-road and not-too-serious off-road.   AHQ is a space to share knowledge, tools and equipment, and today was their official kickoff event.  
 
Sometime on Friday I’d lost the RAM arm for my GPS, not something very many stores, if any, carry.  One of the guys there loaned me his and said to just mail it back to him when I get home.  What a nice group of folks. 
 
Today was a fun opportunity to talk to other riders and hear about their travels.  The group has invited me to go on a ride with them tomorrow.  How can I resist an offer like that?   
 
Peace on the Road!
BT
 
 
 
BTH 5-10-09
 
Hello from Salida, Colorado!  What a great day this has been!
 
Candy got up with me this morning and made a tasty scrambled-eggs-and-toast breakfast for a nice sendoff.  It sure has been good to see her again, and we talked as if we do that every day.  That’s how it is with longtime friends, isn’t it?
 
Met Lois and the group at Adventure HQ for the ride, which was to be a supposedly very gentle, well graded gravel road through the mountains that Lizzie could handle just fine, according to a few of the guys yesterday.  There was even supposed to be a Goldwing along for the ride.  Doesn’t sound right, does it?   
 
Fortunately, today the ride leader honestly advised I shouldn’t do it, and I’m grateful for his realistic evaluation.   It turned out just fine in the end because I was able to ride with them on the pavement to and through the Garden of the Gods before going my separate way.  Then I met up with them again in Cripple Creek for lunch.  By the way, there were no Goldwings on the ride!
 
Here are Lois (on the right) and me geared up and ready to go. 
 
 
Taken at a photo stop as we entered the Garden of the Gods.     
 
 
So do you think Lizzie or the other bikes look better suited for a gravel road?  Just sayin’. . . .
 
 
 
After I split off from the group, had a nice ride to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and got to see my first prairie dog town, which was next to the parking lot.  This park has one of the richest fossil deposits in the world with 1,700 different species preserved.  There was also a giant redwood grove that lived here and many of their enormous stumps are preserved.  It all came about in a series of unique and complicated events that started with a volcanic explosion millions of years ago.   
 
This shows Pikes Peak  (with no apostrophe) and the Florissant Visitor’s Center in the foreground.  The timberline is very distinct, isn’t it?  I’ll guess from looking at the map Pikes Peak is about 13, 14 miles away.  By the way, Pikes Peak is the most visited mountain in North America and the second-most visited mountain in the world, behind Mount Fuji in Japan.
 
 
Spent several frustrating minutes looping around a group of trees, trying to see a woodpecker that was hammering away.   Finally looked down instead of up and there he was about a foot off the ground.  Turned out to be a hairy woodpecker.
 
This pic shows a windblown pasque wildflower.   The park ranger said they won’t have any other flowers until the middle of June.  In fact, at this elevation it still looks like winter.
 
 
From Florissant National Monument headed down a twisty highway to Maggie’s Restaurant in Cripple Creek.  Gold was discovered in 1891, turning Cripple Creek into one of the richest gold camps in the world.  
 
One of the guys in the group is extremely tall and was on what I believe to be the biggest/tallest motorcycle I’ve ever seen in my life.  He promised to park out front of Maggie’s so I could easily find them in the crowded tourist town.  Sure enough, the bike was the ideal landmark, and I wasted no time finding them.
 
The timing of my arrival at the restaurant was perfect, because the group had just finished sitting down and receiving their menus.  Heard a lot of good dual-sport stories and it was fun talking to Lois some more.  I wonder why us yanks get such a kick out of hearing British terms and phrases. 
 
But I eventually had to reluctantly say goodbye to all my new friends.  Isn’t it cool how our common interest brought us together?  I must admit that traveling alone forces me to be much more outgoing than usual and the rewards have been great. 
 
Headed down the road and passed a llama farm, where two of them were fighting and ramming each other, which you don’t see every day.  As Judge Breland says, it’s that testosteroney!   Here is one of the rowdy offenders alertly posing for y’all.
 
 
It’s been amazing to see what I consider to be the true Rocky Mountains, and I can understand why some people love them so much.  I wonder what the early settlers thought when they first laid eyes on them.  Well, the first thing they thought was, “Oh, shit!”  What I mean is, I wonder what they thought after that.
 
Today was such a good day.  I just love traveling around the USA!  Weather.com says it’s going to be 32 tomorrow morning.  Brought in the big, bulky winter gloves so they’ll stay warm for in the morning.
  
Peace on the Road!
BT
 
 
BTH 5-11-09
 
Hello from Vega, Texas, which is a little west of Amarillo.  I wanted to get a lot farther down the road today, but when this girl gets tired, it’s time to stop!
 
First of all, here is a very important travel tip:  Do NOT trust weather.com!  This morning they said it was 29 degrees in Salida, so I dilly-dallied around and put on every piece of clothing in the bag.  Got bundled up with all my clothes and stocking cap and gloves to pack the bike, went outside and it’s fifty-friggin’-five degrees!  Got so overheated carrying my stuff outside that it triggered a hotflash!  Not only was I mad at weather.com, but even madder at me for wasting time and not checking the temp myself.  Grrrrr! 
 
But my stewing didn’t last long, because the drive out of Salida was a motorcycle rider’s dream and I soon forgot to be mad.  Wonderfully banked twists and turns on a smooth highway through the mountains.  Even better, the poke-along Mother’s Day crowd was a thing of the past and the road belonged to me!   I’m pretty certain I saw a golden eagle along the way, but am not 100 percent sure about that.  Also saw a male mountain bluebird in all his breeding-plumage glory.  Wow!  Absolutely gorgeous flash of blue! 
 
Stopped at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, but the amazing dunes are only one part of this self-contained, incredibly complex and delicate ecosystem within the park. 
 
This is my own oversimplified version of  how the ecosystem basically works.  During the summer strong southwesterly winds blow huge quantities of sand up into the mountain range where it’s scattered everywhere.  Then in the springtime, melting snow and rainfall create runoff, which picks up the sand and transports it back down into the valley.  Northeasterly winds blow the sand back and into the dunes, creating the tallest dunes in North America.  Wind is what creates the sharp ridges in the dunes.  That cycle has been repeated for thousands of years in a delicate balancing act.  Ain’t Mother Nature amazing? 
 
The park and preserve have been expanded to protect the entire system, including several creeks and mountains and seven species of insects that are found nowhere else in the world.  Wish I could have spent an entire day in hiking shoes!  If you haven’t been there before, definitely consider putting it on your list of things to do.  (Yes, I do realize I say that a lot.)    
 
Here are a few cool shots of the dunes and some of the mountains that feed the streams.  You’ll notice it’s a little hazy.  The park ranger said they’re getting a lot of smoke from California wildfires.
 
 
 
In these next two pictures you can see one of the streams running around the edge of the dunes.  These streams create wetland areas during the springtime.
 
 
 
As I headed back to Texas, I was sad to watch the magnificent mountains of Colorado disappear in my rearview mirrors and look forward to seeing them again soon.  Driving past the Capulin Volcano in New Mexico from the west, I could see where the crater was blown out on that side, which was cool.  After that, it was back to Texas, which is always nice.  
 
Peace on the Road!
BT
 
 
BTH 5-12-09
 
Greetings from Austin, Texas!  Pulled into the driveway just a few minutes past 5:00.
 
This morning the entire Panhandle was enveloped in chilly fog and drizzle; but, as Lois would say, there wasn’t much else to do but get on with it.  Had to summon some willpower to pack the bike, and several hotel guests expressed their sympathies.  Here is the weird part.  It was cold enough that I needed to put on my electric jacket liner for the first time the entire trip!   Texas in May?
 
In fact, the conditions stayed chilly and gloomy for about 200 miles.  Then, just as I got to the Fluvanna turnoff by all the wind turbines, bam, suddenly the sky clears and the temperature goes up a full 25 degrees!  You should’ve seen me on the side of the road tearing off every layer I could get away with without being charged with a misdemeanor!  It’s always so weird to drive in and out of a well-defined weather system like that.
 
Let me say that the Olympia high-vis touring jacket and pants performed superbly.  No more putting on protective outer gear in the rain with cars whizzing by and jacket flapping in the wind and pants melting onto the tail pipe.  But there is that dork factor. . . .
 
Oh, yeah.  Was the book signing worth the trip?  ABSOLUTELY!
 
As always, I’m glad to be home and Desha will be pulling up any minute now.  Can’t wait to see her!  Next BT Holiday?  August?????????????
 
Long live long rides!!!
 
Peace on the Road!
BT
 

 

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