I awoke the next morning, having already heard the spatter of rain on the motel roof, and on the asphalt outside, glad my bike was parked directly outside my door under the eaves, since I’d run the battery tender cable out through a window to recharge the battery just in case. I got dressed, prepared for rain, went outside to pack the bike, and noticed the 2 harleys had been put away in their precious little trailer. What wankers.
Left the motel, went to get gas at the corner, and headed north along US-34 towards Rocky Mountain National Park, under a light rain. Rode along the edge of a lake, until I reached the park entrance, where I was waved through, and noticed multiple speed limit warnings in a row, followed by one telling you speeding kills wildlife. I figured I’d comply since the ground looked like this, and I’d just cruise at the mellow 45mph limit to take in the sights.
At first, I didn’t really fathom what the big deal was about this National Park, as the woods were scenic enough, and the granite mountains off in the distance were nice, but didn’t have that “zing” to it that makes you stop and be in awe. Wonderful scenery to be sure, but not “wow”
I motored through the park, climbing back up to 10,000 feet, realizing my rain gloves, though waterproof, didn’t insulate at ALL, and I was getting sick of having my fingertips be numb from the cold temperatures.
The road slowly began to wind a bit more, and finally came around a hill where I could see a valley, with a small river flowing through it. The wow factor was finally presenting itself. I stopped to take a picture, thinking it all looked so “Sound of Music” below.
I continued to climb further up, until I came to a bend in the road that presented a huge ridge of mountains in the park. Yeah, that was the wow factor I was looking for. It was pretty cool
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The road began it’s tighter, curvier descent down the mountain, and the sun had already broken through the sky, presenting dry asphalt on the northeast side of the mountain, showing the valley below. You could already see the little town of Estes Park below.
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I rode down the rest of the way, and stopped at a sporting goods store to see if they had any insulating gloves that were water “resistant” at least, or some thermasilk liners. They only had basic winter gloves, the kind you only wear in the snow for 10 minutes before your hands are soaked, but like I said, I was tired of my fingers being cold.
I went across the street to have a quick breakfast, where this uptight old hag just stared me down from the table next to me while I sat quietly eating my food and punching in a new route into the Zumo. I had originally planned to make a complete loop around Rocky Mountain NP, but realizing I’d have to do the traffic filled switchbacks just off I-70, and go through a bunch of areas I didn’t want to go through again, I decided on a route heading out towards I-25 and the doubling back west to go into Wyoming. I finished my breakfast, and gave the woman at the other table a “WTF you lookin’ at” gesture, and she hid her face in her bowl of oatmeal.
I finally decided on heading out towards Fort Collins, and then doubling back across CO SR-14 (which was AWESOME – 90 miles of 2 lane road following a river) to Walden, which was my portal out of Colorado and up into Wyoming.
The section between Estes Park and Fort Collins was your typical suburbian commute, dull and boring, sadly with almost nothing to photograph. I crossed back West over SR-14, which follows a river for about 80 miles,although it had a good number of cars to get around, before you climb up to 9,000 feet, and then drop into a valley that leads into Walden.
As I dropped out of the mountain pass, the landscape began to flatten out, opening up into wide plains, which only meant one thing; pesky wind that began buffeting me lightly around in my lane.
At least the winds weren’t TOO strong and I was only being made to wander around in my half of the lane.
As I reached Walden, I wondered where Thoreau was, and if he could tell me what the big deal was about his pond.
I stopped for gas, checking the Zumo, and I could hear the tuba going “WAH WAH” as I was informed I had 304 miles to go, and it all looked like wide open, straight roads of Wyoming’s plains.
I looked up, and saw a pair of sportbikes across the street with saddlebags, and idled over to them, and said how nice it was to see something other than a Harley that was actually getting used for touring.
“Actually, we’re from Chicago… we trailered in, we’re about 50 miles down the road.” one guy told me. I had to shake my head. Chicago is far and all, but jeez. Doesn’t anyone ride their damn bike anywhere?
I wished them a good ride, recommended SR-14 to them, and told them there were spots where it was raining on the road, and to be careful.
I motored out of town heading north, and I wasn’t even 1/4 mile out of town when it began to rain. I pulled over to don my rain suit, and headed up towards Wyoming.
No sooner did I crest a hill about 2 miles later, when I was literally hit with a wall of wind. The clouds in front were thick and heavy, and the rain had been picking up, but that ridge must have been holding back all the wind from the clouds because it just slammed right into me. 70 felt like 120 with my helmet being pushed back, and I just stayed in a tuck as best I could, and dealt with the buffeting.
Of course the road would turn, and it would go from a headwind to a crosswind, and I’d be riding sideways just to track straight in the road. Priceless. I checked the Zumo, and it merrily gave me the finger, as it informed me there were 270 miles to go.
I finally reached the Wyoming border, cold, wet and shivering, and pulled over for a picture so the wind was blowing AT my bike, so it would at least dig the stand into the ground, and not blow it over instead.
I motored on, heading up to Rawlings, and from there, Muddy Gap, Wyoming. By now I was about 100 miles into Wyoming, and I’d only gotten welcome with wind and rain. The section between Rawlings and Muddy Gap just cranked it up a notch, heavier winds, more rain, and I was crouched in a tuck trying to hide behind my windscreen, wearing 5 layers, with my Gerbings ON, and still shivering. I remembered Kenny saying there’s no such thing as waterproof, as I moved my arms and upper body around a little bit trying to feel for any water that had soaked through, though I seemed to be dry. I was reaching a low point, cold, shivering, neck sore from the wind, and trying to ride in a full tuck to get SOME cover from my windscreen. And nothing but straight roads, to boot.
Stopped for gas in Muddy Gap, where 2 riders, one on a GS, the other on a Harley informed me it was only raining a little bit on the way to Yellowstone, and I told them about the conditions to expect heading down to Rawlings.
Thankfully they were right, and the skies began to open up, and the wind subsided by about 80% giving me a welcome respite from being knocked around. I looked to my left and saw the system I had just ridden through, and was glad to be out of it. In front of me, the sun illuminated clouds ahead, but at least there WAS some sun, and I was heading towards it.
I love how you can see the speedo readout on the Zumo in this picture
Seemingly hours later (maybe just 100 miles) I began to see the finish line, as the trip meter counted under 200 miles to go, and I was riding through patches of sunshine.
No sooner did I stop for gas, and headed on my way again, when the road slowly curved north, and I blinked a couple of times, thinking the road couldn’t be taking me where it looked like it was headed.
I groaned as I checked the Zumo and saw it was indeed taking me right to that system in front of me. I gritted my teeth and decided there was no other way through.
At the very least, I took time to be amazed at how quick, and how dark the clouds blanketed the land in front of me. Those clouds couldn’t be more than 5-600 feet above my head. I was amazed, there’s no weather like this in CA.
As I began to ride under the clouds, rain started to spatter on my helmet again, faster and faster, until I was getting a strong, heavy rain on me again. I began to see lightning off to my right, where the clouds were the thickest, and the frequency of the lightning increased until I was able to see the bolts of lightning themselves hitting the ground, first on one side, then on the other. I actually laughed at the stupidity of the situation.
Thankfully, the road and weather took pity on me, curving to the West, away from the storm. The lightning quickly subsided first, then the rain, until finally I was out from under the dark clouds, and even saw a faint rainbow trying to show itself from under the storm I had gotten out of.
The rest of the road continued along for the last 100 miles, with a rabbit presenting itself in the form of a big Mercury sedan going 90, allowing me to chase it at 85, and cover those last miles quicker, without the fear of a trooper lighting me up.
As I finally rolled the last 15 miles into Dubois, Wyoming (I’d been wondering how the F you pronounced it, was it Doo-Bwah, like in French? Dew-boys? Who settled this place that gave the town its name?)
I began to follow the Great Wind River, which had cut away some familiar formations, reminiscent of Utah.
Finally got into town, checked into a motel, had dinner, and ran across some Goldwing riders that told me it had been snowing further up the road to Yellowstone, and the road construction ahead had made the trip quite sketchy.
I took heed, went back to my motel, finally warmed up with a hot shower, and went to bed.