Reba and I lived in Iowa for over 41 years, the last 11 in the tri-state area surrounding Sioux Falls, SD. We’ve always enjoyed the orderliness of the gently rolling hills and square sections of land surrounded by gravel or paved roads, always well maintained. Motorcycle riding amidst Iowa farmland is fairly predictable, and you always know where you are or how far you are from the next intersection – there’s one every mile. Many riders follow the river valleys (Big Sioux, Little Sioux, Rock, etc) to escape the monotony of roads that always run straight north-south or east-west. We search for sweeping curves and hills that allow us to appreciate the great engineering of our Beemers, Harleys or Rice Burners.
Moving to Colorado during the spring of 2010 allowed us to experience those sweeping curves and hills (mountains) on an everyday basis. In fact, we first tested those hills in August, 2009. After linking up with son Tony in Milwaukee, who was relocating from Bronx, NY, to the Denver area on his 1980’s vintage K75 via a 6-week route, we rode together across WI and IA to Larchwood (elev. 1440). A few weeks later we saddled up once again for a 2-day ride to Golden, CO, by way of the Black Hills. Immediately upon arriving at Tony’s sister’s place in Golden, we were informed the plan for the next day was a ride up “the highest continuous hard surface highway in the continental U.S.” . The whole family gathered at Katix’s place (she lives in a motor home in Golden) to welcome Tony to his new state, and to celebrate with a family ride up Mount Evans. By noon we had traversed some of the most interesting sweeping curves and mountain roads (most without side rails) to reach the summit at 14,246’ above sea level.
Now remember, two days earlier Tony and I were at Larchwood, with an elevation just over one tenth that of Mount Evans. By the time we reached the summit, we were both light-headed. I felt very unsteady at the helm of my R1100RT. My stomach was upset, and I had no stamina. I suggested to my 15-yr old passenger that he might want to ride back down the hill with his Dad on his Honda for safety’s sake. Seeing the increasing blue-green color of my complexion, he quickly agreed. By the time we took a rest break at around 10,000 feet I felt much better. If you like challenging hills, sweeping curves and breathtaking views, I recommend the trip up Mount Evans, just west of Denver and Golden. Just don’t do it your first day in Colorado !
This July, after living in our rural Colorado Springs home (elev 7,350) for 5 months, Reba and I agreed that the ride up Pike’s Peak was well overdue. We can appreciate the view of the Peak from our family room (as can most of the folks living in the SE quarter of the state) but we’d never challenged the hill. I was committed to hiking up Pike’s Peak on Saturday with a group of young men from church, and felt it would be a great idea for Reba & I to motor to the top in advance to get a feel for the hill. We rode 40 miles southwest from home, and reached the base of the mountain by 10AM. Before noon we’d conquered it on the RT, learning that the peak was at 14,115’ elevation, and that the route is still not all blacktop. They’re improving the highway each year, but there are still over 3 miles of gravel somewhere near the tree line. Yes, we both still experienced a bit of that light-headed feeling at the peak, but not nearly as acutely as before we had become acclimated to the thin air. It’s another of those rides I recommend to each of you.
There are two caveats I’ll pass on to you about riding in Colorado. First, there are few level parking lots. If you’re accustomed to bringing your RT to a stop and putting both feet on the ground at the same time, get ready for a change. My favorite passenger and I were coasting to a stop at the visitor’s center at the U.S. Air Force Academy, looking for a safe place to park out of traffic. In a moment of inattention, I was shocked to find that while my left boot hit the pavement as planned my right boot was still perhaps 6” from terra firma. As you may be aware, this can result in an embarrassing fall to the right and an upset passenger. Fortunately she was wearing her helmet, and suffered only a bruise on the leg. And the RT?? - a busted right mirror glass once again ($88). The biggest embarrassment was the need to accept the assistance of a young AF cadet in righting the bike.
While Reba limped toward the Visitor’s Center I searched for a safe parking place and chose a small spot near the curb at the opposite end of the parking lot, safe from four-wheeled demons. I parked the RT on the side stand, realizing this spot sloped to the right too much for the center stand. Well, you know what happened after our tour of the Visitor’s Center and lunch. We donned our jackets, helmets and gloves, and I suggested to Reba that she mount the bike before I did (she finds that easier to do when we have both the trunk and side bags installed.) Since I underestimated the grade of the parking lot, the left handlebar simply escaped my hand as she mounted, pulling the bike to the curb on the right side again. This time it broke the whole mirror assembly ($278 or something like that). I won’t even mention that Reba took a much harder fall this time, hitting her helmeted head on the concrete curb. And yes, since it was parent’s weekend, there was another strapping young cadet quick to impress his folks with his ability to assist an old soldier in making his bike vertical again.
I promised you two caveats. First, no level parking lots. Second, they won’t take your check in Colorado. At least not without your driver’s license, birth certificate and certified letter of credit from your bank. I took the RT to the local Colorado Springs BMW dealer for a tire replacement. One thing led to another and soon we have a $918 total bill for two tires, complete 18,000 mile servicing, and a few other extras. Just before closing time service manager phoned to say the bike is done, so I pulled Reba off the lawn mower to accompany me to the shop. In our rush, neither of us thought to bring a billfold or purse, credit card or driver’s license. As we finished going over the service ticket and trying to figure out how a tire or two resulted in a $918 tally, I gave up and wrote out the check. “We’ll need to see your Colorado driver’s license.” Well, no, it’s in the office. “Your wife’s?” No, it’s in her car at home. Gave him my social security number (against my better judgment) and he tried running my check through his machine. No, the machine refused it. Gotta’ be your Colorado driver’s license. By this time a mechanic started wheeling my Beemer back inside the shop, so the fact that I had the ignition key in my little hand did not mean a thing. We had to make a second trip to the city the next day to redeem the RT. In SD you can write a check for your gas or groceries or bike service any day. On a recent visit to Aberdeen the supermarket clerk even offered to accept my out-of-state check in exchange for cash to give me some walking-around money. But in Colorado, bring your credit or debit card…..and your driver’s license. “In God we trust; for all others it’s cash or VISA”.
In closing, just let me state how much fun it is to ride the RT on Colorado’s sweeping blacktop mountain curves and high speed interstates. One August Saturday when cruising toward my son’s new home in surburban Denver, I noted that the speed of traffic in left lane of 8-lane Interstate 25 within the city limits was 90 MPH by my speedometer. In Wyoming when cruising I-25 north of Cheyenne toward Spearfish, I found myself easily cruising 100 to 110. In Wyoming , they don’t care, and there do not seem to be any state patrol cars. However, I was shocked when a friend pointed out to me that I had been lax on my attention to tire maintenance. Steel belts were showing all along the middle of my rear tire. And that’s what led to the $918 invoice---and now you know the rest of the story.