Wyoming Ride – BMWMOA Rally


Prologue – July 14, 2008 – Home to Vernon, TX

Tom, Paul, his wife Marilyn and I wanted to get the heck out of the big
city and get closer to the cooler high country, so a short evening ride after work
to Vernon was in order.

We met up with Tom near his house north of Frisco and started heading west.


 IMG_0017 A quick gourmet meal at a Wichita Falls truck stop
We
are here in the metropolis of Vernon, TX amongst the grain elevators
just a couple of hundred miles up Hwy 287.  The weather during the ride
cooperated nicely, with some cool outflow from nearby thundershowers
around Decatur.  The roads were dry, though.


 IMG_0029 P7142810
Tomorrow
morning we get up early for the trek across the Panhandle, through a
corner of New Mexico, and into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

 

Day 1 – July 15, 2008 – Vernon, TX to Westcliffe, CO

We are in Westcliffe, CO after a 536-mile run today, and posting from Poag Mahones pub downtown. It is a great find for dinner where our waiter, Brennen has served up some very tasty rib eye steaks and burgers with fresh baked Amish buns.

IMG_0142   IMG_0145

 

 
The ride across the Panhandle was hardly hot since rain showers greeted us from just west of Vernon to Amarillo. We donned the rain gear and welcomed the cooler temps.  At Bushland just west of Amarillo, a local looked over his station wagon and asked “is that one of those engines that goes…” and he was motioning with both hands going away from each other.  I pointed to Tom’s R1200RT and said that was the boxer engine he was trying to describe.  And then he said “Hey, it’s Tuesday and you guys aren’t at work!”.  Yep.


We made a detour off the main route Hwy 87 through northeast New Mexico onto hwy 72, near Capulin Volcano. 

Bo would be proud of us since the road was small enough that we had to wait on cattle to clear off in front of us.  That’s Capulin in the background.  IMG_0067
Another nice road find was hwy 165 just west of Colorado City.  This road was lightly-traveled and very winding over the mountains into Westcliffe.

IMG_0159 Debbie, here are the Sangre de Cristo mountains at Westcliffe that I was describing to you on the phone tonight.

Tomorrow starts the run through some of the best mountain scenery of Colorado and into Wyominq.

As Tom just said, “Life is good…”

Day 2 – July 16, 2008 – Westcliffe, CO to Dubois, WY

Blogging live tonight from Dubois, Wyoming
listening to the Prairie Grass bluegrass band performing some excellent
music with 12-year old Tori Anderson leading the vocals. We just had a
wonderful steak and salmon dinner at the Rustic Pine Steakhouse and
Tavern.

 
 Our waitress, Cathy told us about the concert right next door.
 
    
This
morning at breakfast, we met up with Jon Wiggins, Richard Neas, and
Kurt and Angie Gibson who were on an off-road excursion through the
Trans American Trail. They are from Springfield, MO and started their
all-dirt ride in Arkansas and will finish around Ouray, CO.


Today’s
ride took us 546 miles through central Colorado and through the windy
high plains of Wyoming. We left Westcliffe early in the morning and
immediately spotted Elk in the valley just below the road.  In fact, we
couldn’t go more than a few miles before spotting more wildlife along
the highway.

Along the Arkansas River we came up on a Harley sidecar rig with a
dog wearing goggles. He (the dog) kept turning around to check us out
as we were passing them.

 
  We had to stop in Wyoming  this time for a cattle drive.  The cows were
complaing at us like we were messing up their road
crossing.

 
We met up with Matthew in Lander, WY at a fuel stop.
He has been on the road for over a month riding his R1100S through the
eastern states. He was on his way back home to Dubois.


We rode with him
for the last 80 miles of today’s leg into Dubois and he led us through
the canyon sweepers into his home town.  It was cool watching him wave
to the locals once we entered town. But, he said he was just returning
to pack and get the heck out of Dubois.
 


We decided to live on the edge and went into this biker bar.


Tomorrow is a ride to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone with a stay overnight in Cooke City, MT.

Day 3 – July 17, 2008 – Dubois, WY to Cooke City, MT

I’m starting today’s post while waiting on the pilot truck to lead me through some road construction just outside of Silver Gate, MT. It’s only 2.5 miles to the hotel in Cooke City, but the road construction is holding things up for around 20 minutes.  There’s a light rain falling and the temperature has dropped into the 50’s.

Kristen, the flag person, says her hands are so cold she can hardly hold the camera steady while she snaps a pic of me.  

I see the pilot truck heading in my direction, so I must get ready to ride.

I’m resuming the journal now in our room listening to the soothing
sound of the Soda Butte Creek that is just below our window.

 


Tom, Paul and Marilyn split off from me at the top of the falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone so they could head on to the Soda Butte Hotel. I spent another couple of hours riding the 60 miles of beautiful northern Yellowstone shooting way too many photos, but you know I had a great time.

 

We started out early this morning riding through the Grand Tetons.
Carolyn, a very friendly park ranger, struck up conversation with us at
the Snake River Overlook.
     
I removed myself and remembered the times when I was very young in this
very spot with my parents. I owe so much to them for introducing me to
this beautiful country of the West.
 


In Yellowstone, we visited Old Faithful but were surprised by the number of people. We decided to not wait for an eruption after seeing the traffic of the previous as we were arriving. After a quick lunch, we moved on. We enjoyed the sweeping and twisty turns of the park and listened in on the French visitors using the same radio channel as ours. We couldn’t understand a lot, but Tom corrected their “Continental Devine”.

 

While now on my solo ride, I had to put on rain gear at the top of a
mountain when the temperature dropped 15 degrees and the sky darkened.


 The rain was short-lived, and the afternoon light was spectacular on
all of the flowers covering the valley below me.  My ride into Cooke
City was stopped many times for wildlife and wonderful lighting on the
Sage and hills around me.

So once I got through the final 2.5 miles of road rebuilding, I rolled up to the hotel to see Tom sitting in the timber-ceiling lobby window.  We had dinner and a brew later and listened to a chap telling a story about a camper  that was attacked by a bear the night before just outside of Cooke City. We were trying to figure out if the story was legit and later found it to be true after meeting Adrian in the lobby.  She is an empty-nester from California and spending time hiking here where she once lived. She was at the same camp last night when the attack happened. The rangers made everyone break camp and either leave or sleep in their cars.

Next up is Beartooth Pass and on to Gillette.

Day 4 – July 18, 2008 – Cooke City, MT to Gillette, WY

The Grizzly attack stories continued with the Cooke City locals this morning at the fuel station. Tom and I loaded up with fuel and headed out at 7:00 towards Beartooth Highway. How appropriate. Early morning is the most favorite part of the day for wildlife, so that fact and the 36-degree air kept us a bit under the posted limit. The cool air and spectacular scenery woke me up quickly and made the slower ride very pleasing. We saw a couple of moose, plenty of deer, Pronghorn and some random marmot for good measure.

 

We stopped for a SLR moment at a still pond with the mountains rising
from the far side. The water vapors were rising from the grass as the
morning sun first hit.

 
  On up Beartooth Highway, the road rose near 11,000 feet and above tree
line. As we ascended the pass, ten-foot snow drifts lined the side of
the road that twisted tightly and demanded attention to keep the bike
on pavement. This has to be one of the best mountain rides in the
States.



We rode through Red Lodge and out in the high rolling sage hills of Montana to highway 14A over the Bighorn range.  This section was an exciting surprise that rose out of the dry scrub.
Once down in elevation, we shared ride stories with another group from
Arizona and Seattle at the Sinclair. The rider said he was “still on
the high”.


We got off of the short stretch of interstate quickly, rode the back
roads of hwy 14 and entered the MOA rally site in Gillette. We went
through registration and chose a grassy area to pitch the tents.

I took my bike over to a washing area to get the Texas rain and Montana forest road construction grime off of my bike in prep of tomorrow’s 25th anniversary BMW K-Bike Koncours celebration. And who rolls up to wash his bike but Greg Feeler with my bike’s sister serial number K75S. We exchanged greetings and I held both bike’s handlebars. It was a touching moment. “Separated at birth and reunited in Gillette.”

I’m finishing this post listening to the New Riders of the Purple Sage
playing Panama Red outside the Beemer Saloon and having an Odells Pale
Ale microbrew from Ft. Collins, CO. 



The big thunderstorm earlier this afternoon rained lightly on us, flattened a few tents, and nicely cooled things down. The music is good, evening air is good, ale is good, company is good and today’s ride was a dream. Life is definitely good.

Day 5 – July 19, 2008 – BMWMOA Rally in Gillette, WY

The sun is shining bright today in a blue sky above Gillette. Last night’s temperature was cool and perfect for a good sleep in the tent.


The K-Koncours bike judging continues as I am starting this post. Our
si
ster bikes are drawing a lot of attention, and it’s been fun meeting
and talking with Greg. The bikes have been spending some quality time
together in the show and are likely swapping s
tories from the road.  

Greg’s bike took honors in our class, and is well-deserved. It was a blast watching all of the K-bike fans looking over the fine machinery.  BMW presented a great history of the K-bikes, with Andy Sills present.  Andy set a world land speed record of 173.57 on a K1200S at the Salt Flats.

 

Chris McNiel tearing it up at the stunt show. 
Kilts gone wild.   We met up with Tom Mamic from British Columbia, who is on a world ride
on his
F800GS that he had shipped from South Africa to Argentina. He
made his way down to Tierra del Fuego, and is now on his way through
the United States. He has ridden 74,000 Kilometers so far, and has just
been presented a MOA distance award for that effort. 


Ben Lower was introduced at the closing ceremony as one of the directors of the MOA. There are 5,103 rally-goers here this week from all over the country and internationally. Nintey percent of the 4,000 bikes here are BMW’s.

The David Swisher million-mile award has just been presented to Ken McHugh. Bob’s BMW has given a whole riding suit with gloves and boots as a door prize. Many other door prizes and awards were handed out.
The grand prize bike is a new R1200GS which has just been won by Howard Morgan from Longmont, CO.  Next year’s rally will be held in Johnson City, Tennesee. There will be trees and grass.  If you have never attended a MOA national rally, start planning now for next year.  I’ll see you there.

Tomorrow we head to Devil’s Tower, the Black Hills and the Badlands in South Dakota.

Day 6 – July 20, 2008 – The Black Hills and Badlands, SD
There was a of activity
this morning as rally rats were packing up to head out in all different
directions that they may have arrived from.  Our now four bikes (with
Alan’s arrival) were loaded up with gear and some additional stuff
procured at the vendor tents (Remus pipes and luggage).  Tom found a
way to avoid the interstate totally on the way over to Devil’s Tower,
which is always a plus.  Highway 14A really got interesting as we
headed north.  We saw many deer and Pronghorn along with a very
friendly rabbit at the tower.
After a fuel
stop just north of Spearfish, we continued on through Spearfish Canyon.
We quickly saw the 35 mph limit, and we had heard that the local law
uses all varieties of vehicles.  Enough said – an easy pace was in
order for the 20 mile canyon.


Photo credit Marilyn Goode
A turn toward Sturgis took us through
Deadwood.  The stomachs were growling a bit, and all it took was a
suggestion over the FRS radio of a hamburger and Tom quickly saw Tin
Lizzies.

We parked the bikes and talked with a local who was waiting
for his wife.  Later I discovered his wife was playing the slots.  Tom
found us a casino for lunch, but rest assured, no slots for lunch.
Cheap burgers, and it was good enough.

Sturgis
was next, just because.  I can’t believe how many Harley apparel stores
are there and vendor tents, and the big rally is a couple of weeks
away.  We stopped for pics at BMW Sturgis, which also sold Yamaha &
Suzuki.
 
A back-track through Deadwood to stop
at Mt. Moriah cemetery for Marilyn was next.  I enjoyed the downtime
and checked in with Deb.  I led the group down 385 towards Crazy Horse
to see how that mountain carving is going.  We then took 87 to the
Needles Highway in Custer State Park, filled with tunnels and very
sharp turns.  Alan later commented that this was one of his most
technical rides.  County Road 753 was a shortcut to 16A, which we took
to Mt. Rushmore.  More tunnels and some pigtail bridges made this
section interesting.  After we stopped at a tunnel to stretch and take
photos of the prezes, I dropped my Olympus lens down the mountainside –
bummer.
On the way out of the Black Hills, we
shared FRS channel 5 with Rick and Pattie from Austin.  We stopped for
fuel and talked a bit.
 
  On to the Badlands,
where Tom, Alan and I are sharing a camping cabin (basically a storage shed with an air
conditioner).  It’s better than it sounds, and something different.
Speaking of different, we have heard many languages on this trip.

 

I
am sitting out front of the camp store composing this looking at the
moon in the mild evening air.  Alan and I had a swim earlier and
watched the bats fly down and skim the pool surface for a drink.  Now
it’s time for a good sleep.
Tomorrow it’s south through Nebraska and
Kansas to Hays.

Day 7 – July 21, 2008 – The Badlands, SD to Hays, KS

We woke up this morning and had a
“Cowboy Breakfast” of pancakes and sausage.  We took our time leaving
and headed south through the rolling hills of South Dakota, Nebraska
and Kansas for near 500 miles.  Considering that we were traveling
these states, the ride was entertaining and with more sweepers than I
expected.  This was due to riding the back roads instead of the majors
and the interstates.


We saw many combine caravans
     


The key word for today is HOT.  We saw 102
degrees through Nebraska and Kansas, and took more stops than first
planned to keep the fluids in.  Had a great steak dinner served by a
very spunky waitress by the name of “Shasta” (more to that story).  We
are crashing now to get an early start in the morning to beat the heat.

Tomorrow we are changing the route just a bit to
look through the town of Greensburg that was almost totally destroyed
by an EF5 tornado in May, 2007.  Then we will shoot east through
Wichita, KS to have a BMW dealer look at Tom’s ABS fault.  We should be
back home at around 540 miles.

Day 8 – July 22, 2008 – Hays, KS to Home

Blogging live from Kingfisher, OK, the birthplace of Sam Walton.  We are making extra stops due to the 104-degree heat outside of this cool oasis right inside of town. We left Hays this morning at 7:00 and it did not take long for the temperature to rise. The ride through Greensburg was sobering when we saw the devastation from last year’s tornado. We headed out of Greensburg into the sun and quickly decided to turn south for as long as possible.  That eventually brought us through Nash, OK and at a perfect time for lunch
and a few buckets of tea.

  The only cafe in town was the Ranch House,
also known as Gripey Joe’s by Joe Park’s wife, Susan.

 
  We also learned that there are only two seats ever available at the
bar, so all of our group scattered through the cafe with the locals.
The rest of the bar is for all of the tea and pitchers, and a serving
table for the waitresses.

We had a authentic country-fried steak lunch and a whole lot of tea.   Joe came over to our table to meet us, and Tom and Joe figured out they both used to work for Sam Freedman in Henrietta. Small world.


The heat is getting to Tom

and Alan.  AKA Hans and Franz


Well, back into the oven for a while.

The worst heat of the year so far picked today to
hit on our ride back home.  The temperature was indicating 104 on
several bikes at points, and we had to stop every 50 to 80 miles or so
to keep the fluids in.  All of the extra stops to get fluids and take
in a bit of cool air added some time.  We used the Oklahoma BMW
dealership as an air-conditioned haven for a couple of hours letting
the afternoon heat pass, but it did not help a whole lot.


The parts
man at BMW recommended Bandeleros for some good mexican food.

Jose
treated us very well there with quality food, complimentary dishes and lots of tea.


We parted ways as we neared the city.  The day’s trip log showed
553 miles as I rolled into my garage at 10:00 in the 97-degree heat.
The trip is done with 3,319 miles on the main GPS log, and I am both sad to end the trip, but happy to be home.  It was a dream
ride for me, and I will pulling
the experiences out of my head for many days to come.

It’s really good to be back home (especially in some air
conditioning).  Debbie, Laura and Wes greeted me at the door with
smiles along with Katy our Border.  I’m looking forward to my bed.


Tom, Paul, Marilyn, and Alan – it was a great ride and I really enjoyed your company.
 


Way too many photos at:  http://picasaweb.google.com/rlswim/WyomingRideBMWMOARally

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4 Responses

  1. Wes says:

    The picture of the mountain looks sweet

  2. Bo says:

    Yes, I am proud. According to your proposed route, it looks as if you might catch some gravel roads in Northern Mexico before reaching Raton. Did you avoid all of those?

    >>>Bo would be proud of us since the road was small enough that we had to wait on cattle to clear off in front of us. <<<

  3. Rebekah Myre says:

    Y’all look like your having a blast. Enjoyed the photos!

  4. Richard Swim says:

    All of Hwy 72 to the east of Raton is paved.  Not in very good condition, but no gravel.  If you happen to pass by this area and have time to negotiate the tight turns, give it a try.  The views are great, and very little traffic on this back road.

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