Part I – Philly to Denver

Family Loop Tour, Part I

My recent trip to Denver got off to a shaky start. As this was originally planned as a trip to the MOA rally in Gillette, WY and then drop down to visit with my son’s, one in Denver and the other in Santa Fe and then to my two daughters, one southeast of Houston (maybe) and then on to Atlanta.

As I really wanted to visit with my Houston daughter and three granddaughters, the weather there in mid July was a big factor and I was unable to find something that would work for my daughter and I. But all this was to change when I learned of my Denver son’s testicular cancer that spread into his lungs. So my wife and I decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest to move my trip up and she would fly out to Denver and drive back to Santa Fe with our other son and then fly to Houston and then home as I then went on to Atlanta and then the Blue Ridge Pkwy for my ride home.

As we had a NY wedding on the Saturday before my departure (Memorial Day weekend), I got home way latter than I had planned. I had planned a 6 am departure and was running about 15 minutes late when I tried to mount my bike which was on the side stand. As it was somewhat cool out I had the liner pants on from my new Olympia riding gear. I had tried out the suit without the liner pants and all was OK, but I was unable to bend my knee enough to clear the top trunk. What now?

I put the bike on the center stand and was able to clear the top trunk and then I put the bike back on the side stand and worked out a technique to clear the trunk. I could clearly see the look of concern on my wife’s face as I pulled out of the driveway on my way to Denver. As she was flying out on Thursday, I left myself enough time to be there when she arrived. After about 100 miles my Bohn back protector started to irritate my shoulders. Well I violated some important rules by not trying out my gear before my trip and was now paying the price for my neglect. I use the Bohn protector in my Roadcrafter suit which is Velcro’ed to the back. This was the first time I used it as a stand alone as I was concerned that the back protector in the Olympia jacket was inadequate. I stuffed a tee shirt between the back protector and my back and all was well.

I had a slight navigational blunder before I entered Maryland that added 35 miles to my trip and I was able to put it behind me very quickly. As I was using my new Zumo for the first time on my bike I did not set it to follow a route as I was using the route that Jim Robinson and Rick Sorensen had given me. It turned out to be the best part of my trip and I sincerely thank both of them for the tip and it only added about 100 miles to the trip to Denver.

As I had zeroed out all my bike’s computer settings when I left I was quite surprised to see my fuel mileage drop from 42.3 to 36.5 when I was enjoying the twisty mountain roads in WV. The elevation changes were over 1500 feet and the traffic was light as I was having a ball.

The rest stops in MD and WV were first class and much appreciated. I was quite surprised to see all the roadside memorials to accident victim’s so very well manicured and cared for.

As this was my first multi week motorcycle trip since 1981, there were a lot of unknown’s for me along with on and off back problems. I had hoped to be able to ride about 400 miles a day and my first day was 435 miles with 400 miles forward progress. As I had reset the gps trip log I did not realize that it did not also reset the odometer and therefore the odometer show the mileage from the NY wedding where I used the gps to get familiar with it. My day one average speed was 61.7 mph with 7.05 hours moving. Not too shabby for a 66 year old, old fart.

On day two I had some 15 degree early am temperature swings and it was hard to decide what gear to wear, so I had to tough it out when it got colder than I was dressed for. I know Mr. Curry is probably saying that some heated gear would work well for the temperature changes, but I had packed enough layers and did not have any room for my heated vest which I only use in heat mode when the temp drops below 30 degrees and I did not expect to see these temps on this trip.

I had some heavy rains and discovered that the closed vents on my Olympia jacked leaked. It often happens that I am riding somewhere, where it is difficult to pull over to fix some sort of weather related gear problem and this time was no exception. The roads in Kentucky were a lot flatter and it became evident that the independent truckers were driving slower than the drivers who don’t pay for their fuel. Consequently, a lot of trucks were pulling out in the left lane passing slower trucks and sometimes taking five minutes or more to make their pass. It was quite frustrating to be following one of these truckers and get beat up my the turbulence behind them.

I seem to have this “talent” where I often pass thru a lot of towns 15 to 25 miles apart with lodging and then when I decide to call it a day, the next town with lodging is 50 miles away and this happen to me on day two as the rains got very heavy.

Day two was 504 miles and my trip average jumped to 64.4 mph and my time in the saddle was 14.37 hours total.

On day three, I got a 5am start as I was 80 miles from Saint Louis and I did not want to get caught there in rush hour traffic. But this early start was of no avail as I hit some heavy fog and had to pull into the next town as stop for breakfast to wait for the fog to lift.

As it turned out I got to Saint Louis just before 7 am and the traffic was quite heavy with a lot of quick change lane jockeys. As I ride in the far left lane whenever possible in these situations so that I only have to look out for traffic from my right side and stay out of their blind spot. Also, one disadvantage of traveling due west is the early morning sun glare in my bike mirrors. Sometimes it was quite distracting.

Jim Robinson had given me a route to follow once I crossed the river in Saint Louis to end up in Wentzville to pick up I70, but fortunately I had learned earlier from a trucker at a rest stop that this route was closed for 2008 and I had to pick up I70 in Saint Louis.

By early afternoon the winds had picked up considerably and I was really getting hammered. The winds were coming from over my left shoulder and it would try to lift my helmet off my head. As my helmet fits very snugly, it would move my eyeglasses up and down causing the bifocal line to obstruct my vision. I had to hold the chin bar of my helmet with my left hand to settle it down so I could ride. I also had to cut my speed down to keep the bike under control.

Latter that afternoon I crossed into Kansas and I found the scenery to be most enjoyable with the lush rolling hills and cattle grazing all over the place. By contrast the farm fields in MO along the interstate were mostly flat and flooded with water from all the recent rains, but the fields in Kansas appeared to be dry. Well the rains and the winds picked up considerably and the temps continued to drop.

At a rest stop I put on the last top layer of warm clothing I had with me and a couple from Easton, PA on a Honda ST1300 pulled up and started to talk to me. They never got off their bike and as they could not see me from the road, I was puzzled as to why they stopped at the rest stop. Also they told me they were on the road for over three weeks and planned at least three more weeks before returning home, I had to wonder how they managed with just two side cases, a small tank bag and small top case. They were both wearing worn out and heated Roadcrafter high vis suits. Must be the miracle of the internet.

By days end my butt was sore and I added another tee shirt under my sheepskin butt pad. I had ordered a set of Sargent seats for my bike and when I received them I tried the rider seat in the low position and I had to force it on the bike. Also it caused my legs to be lower to the ground than the stock seat and the seat had a lip at the rear where I would normally sit. I was unable to get the seat to lock in the high position and when I called Sargent they gave me some bull about some of the rods being out of spec. I measured the rods and compared then to the stock rods and they were very close to the same diameter. The problem was their seat pan was out of spec and would not fit my bike. I returned the seats to them and ordered a butt pad from Alaska Leathers. I ordered it on Friday eve and by regular mail, received it the following Monday. While it was a big improvement over the stock seat, it was not the answer.

When the temp dropped to 44 degrees I decided to look for some lodging and again I had to travel 42 miles to the next town with lodging and most of these miles I had to hang onto my helmet chin bar. Before I reached Russell, KA I passed a huge windmill farm. The setting was quite eerie in the rain and dark skies. Quite a few of the more than 200 windmills were idle. I was surprised at how slow they turn. Maybe it was because of the high winds.

I ended up in Russell, Kansas and I was about 350 miles to my son’s house according to Mr. Zumo. I had planned head north and pick up rt 36 to get off the interstate the following day. I figured this ride to be “a piece of cake”.

Day three I had put on 567 miles. My moving average went up to 65.2 mph and I had 23 total hours in the saddle.

My early morning start from Russell turned out to be unpleasant as the winds were howling once I got to the interstate and I decided to forget about rt 36 as this would add about 40 additional miles to my ride.

The 350 mile ride to Denver was the worst ride I have ever had on a bike. My helmet was getting bouncing around so much that I felt like a bobble head doll. I had my first headache in years when I arrived at my son’s home. I found out that by tucking down into a racer position that I could minimize the effects from the wind. But the windscreen on the GS Adventure has a lip at the top that distorts my view and my body could only do this posture for a short period at a time. It seems like this windscreen was designed right after a week long Bavarian beer fest. I have no clue what all the contortions and distortions are suppose to accomplish other than piss me off. Why would you need an aerodynamic windscreen on a dual sport bike?

When I was off the interstate and close to my son’s home, I saw quite a few prairie dogs. I had no idea they were so common in Denver. My son tells me that the area is over run with them as they are quite destructive.

The total mileage to Denver was 1860 and my average speed went up to 65.8 mph with 28.26 hours in the saddle.

I had a great time in Denver with my son and his family. My son was doing well and he has another CT scan late this month to see if his cancer cells have cleared up. It was good to see him able to stay awake for long periods and be happy.

My wife arrived on Thursday and my son from Santa Fe arrived on Friday. On Saturday, my brother and his lady friend from Fort Collins, CO that I have not seen since 1984, came to diner and it was good to see him too.

(l to r)Son Matthew his wife Justina, my wife Marge and me,
son Shawn and brother Lewis.