The Trip Home

Warning – this is going to be a long post. I planned to update along the way but just didn’t find the time, so here it is, all at once 🙂

6,287 miles – that’s the final number. About 1,500 of that was for the rally, the rest was spent exploring. If you discount the rally miles, and account for the 2 days I did no riding, then I averaged about 480 miles a day. Not bad for a flower sniffing, picture taking ride.

I visited 21 Tour of Honor memorials along the way and now have a total of 49 sites visited in 10 states (I have visited all 7 in 5 states – Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Wyoming).

Monday (August 12th) – Denver, Colorado

The first day after the rally, and I want to make sure I ride along without feeling the stress of being “on the clock”. I purposefully set this day up as a relatively low mileage day that ended with a visit with friends near Denver. You really can’t go wrong in Colorado, so picking a route was not too difficult. I chose to cross Monarch Pass via US-50. High points included a visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (I know, I never heard of it either) and a stop at 11,000+ feet.

Black Canyon is a real gem. The park sets above 8,000 feet. I discovered it is best viewed in the afternoon because the sun tends to make any canyon shots tough to capture in the mornings. The best views were looking towards the east…into the sun in the morning. Totally worth the trip!

Looking east over the Black Canyon.
Looking down into the canyon at the Gunnison River.

A quick stop near Blue Mesa dam was a nice treat and then I was off for the most anticipated point of the day – at least for a motorcycle rider – Monarch Pass. At 11,312 feet, it was the highest pass of my entire trip. I was fortunate and did not encounter much traffic on the way up. Without traffic, this road is a motorcycle delight. With traffic, it would be tedious because there were not many passing areas.

My final stop before arriving at my friends’ house was a Tour of Honor memorial in Colorado Springs. This stop turned out to be special as I bumped in to a couple also chasing TOH memorials. This was the first time I have met another rider at a memorial in the 3 years I have participated in TOH.

A quick trip north on the interstate and I arrived for the night, just ahead of some thunder storms (a common theme over the next several days).

Tuesday (August 13th) – Sidney, Nebraska

Rain, rain, keep away…that was my theme for Tuesday afternoon. I had already altered my plans to skip a site in eastern Colorado and now decided to drop a location in western Nebraska. I was riding towards a major storm on the plains and made the decision to call it a day and head towards my hotel early. Turned out to be a good decision since that storm had produced severe thunder storms, large hail (like baseball sized!) and tornado activity. Crazy! I did visit 3 Colorado TOH sites and 1 Wyoming TOH site before making my way to my hotel.

This was the cloud formation I kept riding towards.
This is the weather system on radar. It was on top of my desired destination for the day 😦

Wednesday (August 14th) – Badlands and Rapid City

More storms, more rain. I needed to head north to get to my planned stops in Badlands National Park and, eventually, Rapid City. After looking over the weather reports, I decided to pick up one of the Nebraska stops before turning north. I picked my way around several smaller systems and did some riding in the rain, but by the time I made it to Badlands National Park the rain had stopped and the sun was out!

Badlands was awesome! The road through the park is in great shape and there are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the views. I made my way east to west and exited the park near Wall, South Dakota. A short ride on the interstate and I arrived for my TOH stop in Sturgis – my first time there, and thankfully after the rally had wrapped up. You could still see the signs of the rally everywhere, but most of the bikers were gone.

Sturgis TOH stop.

Thursday (August 15th) – Wyoming Highways and Memorials

Another weather system changed my plans to ride through the Black Hills, so I made my way south and east of the hills and avoided most of the rain. I was disappointed, but mostly dry. One of the sections of road I had most anticipated was US-14 and US-14A through the Bighorn National Forest.

This sign is posted at the top of the pass, and all vehicles towing must stop to read it!

This road did not disappoint! I think I may have taken a good 1,000 miles off my tire’s remaining life 🙂

The rest of the day was spent visiting Wyoming TOH memorials in small towns all over the central part of the state and playing a game of chicken with a thunder storm as I approached my hotel. I guessed (correctly) that I could make it to my hotel without finding shelter as the very dark clouds approached. At this point I have become pretty good at interpreting my radar display. I rolled into my hotel under the canopy and within minutes the wind rain and lightning hit with a vengeance! I enjoyed the show from the safety of a dry hotel lobby and marveled at my luck in finding the one protected spot under the canopy 🙂

Friday & Saturday – Rigby, Idaho

Friday was the first day that I left my hotel in the morning with no threat of rain or storm activity. I was making my way through Wyoming to Idaho to make a stop and visit friends in Rigby. I stopped at my final Wyoming memorial and also visited 2 Idaho memorials. We spent Saturday relaxing, going to a car show and catching up.

Sunday (August 18th) – Yellowstone National Park

Early start = low sun.

To say I was excited about Sunday’s destination would be an understatement of historical proportions! I was eagerly watching the weather for signs of thunder storms and hoping that everything would work out. It turned out to be a fantastic day.

My initial plan was to leave Rigby pretty early and catch some breakfast on the way. I wanted to get to the park early because it was a Sunday and I knew crowds would be heavier. I took off before the sun came up and headed north on US-26 towards West Yellowstone. I had time for a quick stop at an Idaho TOH memorial in Ashton and breakfast at a little cafe near the highway. It was well times since the temperatures were a bit cool – in fact, this was the first (and only) time the entire trip I needed my heated gear.

My early start meant arriving at the park around 8am, and crowds were pretty light as hoped. I entered the West Yellowstone entrance and made my way across the park through Norris towards Canyon Village. I had decided to ride the north loop since I had never seen this part of the park before. After several stops I made it to Canyon Village and decided it was time for some food – I didn’t know where the next meal would be. They were still serving breakfast, so I scored twice in one day with my favorite meal 🙂

I continued north from Canyon Village and made my way towards the north end of the park. At this point I am thinking I have seen very little in the way of wildlife. No sooner had this thought settled in my head then the traffic ahead of me stopped in both directions – in Yellowstone this can only mean one thing…wildlife! I have made trips to a number of national parks and seen lots of wildlife, but aside from one distant view of a bear in Mt Rainier a few years ago, I have never seen a bear close enough to make out any detail. This was an adult black bear and it was just looking for food near the roadway.

I enjoyed seeing the bear but was mindful of the warnings to not get too close, and as the bear made its way along the line of cars I started getting a little nervous about my lack of protection! About the time I was ready to start splitting between the cars we all started moving and I survived 🙂

Mammoth Springs was another highlight, even though it was very busy. I figured out that you could drive to the upper section of the area and there were fewer people and better views. I spent a little time walking around and enjoying the sights before heading out of the park to the north, and eventually to my hotel in Bozeman, Montana.

Monday & Tuesday – The Final Days

The last few days of riding to get home were uneventful and familiar. The only real excitement came on Monday morning as I picked my way west using Montana highways to avoid the interstate. I wanted to meet up with US-93 at the top of the Lost Trail Pass and used this little Montana highway, MT-569, to go from Anaconda to Wisdom. It turned out to be little more than a goat path with rough pavement and a stretch of about 10 miles of road construction that was mostly mud from recent rain showers. The traffic control person told me that motorcycles were invited to go to the head of the line because the road was in pretty bad shape and it would be “safer” for me to go first. “Safer”? What the hell? Just how bad is the road, I wondered? I asked her if it was safe for me to go, or if I should just turn around, and her response was “most bikes don’t have any problems”. Hmmm…I guess I’ll give it a try because turning back would make an already long day a lot longer. It turned out OK, but my bike is covered in mud now 😦

I eventually made my way to US-93 and headed down the pass to US-12 and Lolo Pass. US-12 is famous for its 100 miles of curves, and I seldom pass up an opportunity to enjoy it.

My only TOH stop for the day was my final Idaho memorial location in Riggins. My ride plan had me arriving at the hottest part of the day in an area known for heat (it is called Hell’s Canyon, after all). It was still a nice ride and it only hit 106F…

My hotel in Clarkston, Washington was a welcome respite from the heat of the day.

By the time Tuesday arrived I really just wanted to beat the heat and get home, so I opted for I-90 and made it home by early afternoon.

It was a fantastic 2 weeks and I enjoyed almost every minute of it. It was also a good primer for next year and the 2 weeks I will spend traveling to/from and participating in the Butt Lite X rally in Kansas.

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My HW3 Rally Ride

This is the back of the rally tee-shirt for 2019…pretty cool!

Well, the rally is complete, and my ride was very good. More on that in a bit.

The Ride to Grand Junction

I left home on Wednesday morning, hoping to beat traffic and get over Snoqualmie Pass at a reasonable time. I was planning to meet up with friend and fellow rally participant, Tim Seawel, near his home in Central Washington. We were on the road east by about 10am and it was already getting warm. The trip out to Twin Falls was hot with temps in the mid-90s all day, and as high as 104 outside of Boise. Needless to say, we were both pretty wiped out by the time we stopped riding Wednesday.

Not the highest temps we saw, but hot enough!

We were both hoping Thursday would be cooler and it was! The tradeoff was increased clouds and, eventually, rain around Salt Lake City. After Wednesday’s sauna, neither of us was complaining much about the rain even though it came down pretty good for a while. We had several Tour of Honor stops planned in southern Idaho and around Salt Lake City. By the time we got up to Park City the rain had stopped, the sun was making an appearance and the temps started going up again. We were riding in mid-90s again for the last several hours heading into Grand Junction.

The Rally – Saturday & Sunday

The bonus pack was provided to us a week in advance, so we had time to try a few routes out and try to discover the solution to the puzzle without too much stress. I played around with a few routes and finally settled on a route that went north into Wyoming to avoid the heat in the south. It worked out well for me and I wound up finishing 9th with 1490 corrected miles ridden in 32 hours (including a 4 hour rest stop).

Saturday morning arrives and we work to get our bikes loaded up and ready to go. The rallymaster wants us at the start by 5:30 to get lined up and record our odometer readings, and we start promptly at 6:00 after a short rider meeting. The start is handled by a veteran starter and goes off without any hitches (if you don’t count the random rider not ready to go!), and off we go. I took off to the east and left the interstate pretty quickly for points north. One construction zone had me concerned but there was no work happening on a Saturday morning – that was one of several things that went well for me on day 1.

Here we are all lined up for the start.

I spent a LOT of time in the mountains during this rally. One of the themes was the element “Oxygen”, and oxygen could only be found at high elevation for this rally. I crossed multiple 10,000+ feet passes during the rally, and managaed to make all but one crossing during daylight hours.

Libby Flats Observation area in southern Wtoming.
This is the graph of all of my elevation changes during the rally Saturday and Sunday. It was a blast!
Here is my 1490 mile route for the rally.

It would be tough to narrow my favorite stops down to just one or two, but if I had to, I would pick the Libby Flats Observation area in southern Wyoming and riding through Moab for the first time. I have never visited Moab (or any of those parks in the area). It was breathtaking.

We had until 2pm on Sunday to return to the hotel and then had to get our stuff together to have our bonus attempts scored. Dinner wa slater in the evening and it was all over. I had a great time again – never miss out on a chance to ride in Colorado. The rallymaster lives in the area and knows how to pick interesting locations, and his puzzles make the route planning process more challenging and enjoyable.

I was very happy with my ride. I made it a point to be a little more aggresive with the distance planned and it worked out well because I had good traffic conditions. Once you get north of Denver everything opens up with the occasional exception of road construction, but even that is over pretty quick. I didn’t have to go fast to complete my route – I just had to keep moving. Be quick, be efficient and don’t stay stopped for long! No real close calls (except for the deer in the middle of town!), no talks with law enforcement, no idiot drivers. Wildlife wasn’t an issue – I did slow down at night and was very careful to not overdrive my lights.

If I had it to do over again, I guess I wouldn’t change too much, but I did learn from this rally (as I do every time I do something like this).

  • I booked a hotel in advance to avoid the possibility that a room wouldn’t be available when I stopped for rest. I was ahead of my schedule and made it to Rock Springs by about 9pm, but the rest bonus didn’t start until 10pm. I could have been riding for that hour. I will likely not pre-book next time. I can’t really say this is a new lesson learned. My nuke friends will probably roll their eyes at this 😦
  • My riding pants suck. That is all.
  • Beef jerky in my tank bag didn’t do it for me. I found myself feeling hungry, but not for jerky. Going to have to find a different treat to go with the Cliff bars.
  • My hydration system worked well. I had bought a “Motojug” mounting system a week before the rally. It holds a gallon size jug on the rear passenger footpeg with a hose and bite valve. I mounted the hose to my jacket and fought with it every time I needed to get off the bike for any reason. About half way through I move it to the top of the jug and it worked better. More practice, me thinks.

Route Planning

My approach to finding a good route for me is pretty anal, to be honest. Here’s a quick look at my process – it works for me, may not work for others, almost certainly won’t work for a rally like Butt Lite or the IBR (where the bonus listing isn’t released until immediately before the rally). I have done timed rallies where the listing isn’t available until just before riding – I have a completely different approach for that type of rally.

  • First, read the damn bonus listing (maybe twice as a friend with more experience has suggested).
  • Look for the requirements. Are there daylight/night time requirements? Is there dirt riding required? Any special stuff like a brief walk?
  • Get the bonus locations into Basecamp (my mapping program). Color code bonus categories to help me identify patterns.
  • Put toegther a simple route that meets the requirements for minimum mileage and points. This helps me get a feeling for level of effort required.
  • Try to identify the limiting/important bonus. For this rally, it quickly became apparant that to do well, you needed to visit Oxygen and Hydrogen locations, or get a butt-ton of wildcard locations.
  • For this rally, I put together a spreadsheet to try to figure out the most points I could get for a certain number of oxygen/hydrogen/wildcard visits.
  • I know my limitations for riding, so I was looking for a route in the 1,500 mile range. I thought that would challenge me and reward me.

I use Basecamp to build the routes and Google Maps to visualize where those routes are taking me (through a National Park, for example).

Towards Home…Eventually

Now I make my way home in a decidedly non-direct route. I have plans to see friends in eastern Colorado and southeast Idaho and will sprinkle visits to a few national parks and TOH memorial locations along the way. More to follow…

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Motorcycle Ride Plans – Off to Colorado

I am headed off to Colorado Wednesday for the How the West Was Won rally and other fun stops. Two days to get to Grand Junction, Colorado for the rally, 32 hours of riding (with a brief rest stop), and then I am off to explore some areas new to me at a more leisurly pace.

I have spent some time over the last few days coming up with a realistic and challenging ride plan for the rally. Now I just have to ride the plan. I will show a picture of the rally plan and how it went when the rally is over. It was a fun puzzle to try to unravel.

Here’s a link to my tracking page if you are interested in following along (Note – nothing will show up until Wednesday morning when I start riding):

Current Ride – this link shows where I am and where I have been recently.

Entire Ride – this link shows the entire ride from start to finish.

I will try to post while out on the road. Stop back by to see my progress 🙂

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Mt Rainier at Sunrise

I was 0 for 2 before yesterday’s trip up to Mt Rainier to try to capture a sunrise mountain shot. My previous attempts (Maui a few years ago and Mt Rainier a few weeks ago) have been thwarted by weather. I am nothing if not persistent, so with a favorable forecast for Monday morning, I headed out of the house at 2:30am to get up to Chinook Pass for the sunrise…success! I was able to get a good pre-dawn picture and several during the sunrise. There were several other people up there enjoying the sunrise, and a few of them went off on the trails to enjoy it – maybe a thought for next time. There was certainly enough pre-dawn light to see the trail if one was careful and deliberate.

I took off to hike the Naches Loop trail after enjoying sunrise. The Naches Loop trail is a pretty friendly hike of about 4 miles through meadows and wildflowers near Tipsoo Lake. Clockwise is the best direction if you want some great views of Mt Rainier during the hike. I was fortunate to be out there with only a few other people – it was quiet and peaceful that early in the morning.

The Naches Loop trail was great, and I was a little tired but it was early, so I decided to head up to the Sunrise Visitor’s center for a little more. Sunrise isn’t too far from Chinook Pass, but the roads are slow and winding, so it took a little over an hour to relocate. Again, an early arrival meant small crowds and an empty parking lot for me 🙂

I really had no plans to hike much after what I had already done, but headed off anyway. I saw a sign for Frozen Lake that was only a little more than a mile out, so I headed out. The trail enjoys great views of Mt Rainier most of the way out. The destination for this hike was a little bit of a letdown – the lake is used by the park service as a domestic water supply, thus the lake is roped off and you don’t really get a great view of it. It did give me several ideas for additional hikes in the area as there are trails heading everywhere!

After returning to the parking lot, I was pooped! I ate lunch while watching hikers arrive and gear up and was on my way by noon. The parking area was filling up but still had plenty of room at this point.

Tips for success at Tipsoo Lake and Sunrise:

  • Arrive early. Crowds at the visitor’s center were building by 11am on a weekday. I am sure it is even busier on a weekend or holiday. If you arrive early and hit the trails, you won’t see many people until you are headed back.
  • The best mountain views at Tipsoo Lake are NOT at the parking area (although that is where the toilets are located). Go farther up the hill – there is parking on the roadside – and then walk a bit farther up the hill until you see Mt Rainier with the lake in the foreground. That is the best view in my opinion.
  • For the best mountain views, go in the morning. The sun sets behind the mountain and your pictures will be difficult at best.
  • Bring bug spray or wipes. It’s nature, after all, so bugs are a constant reality.
  • The hike out to Frozen Lake (and points further) has a lot of sun exposure, so bring sun screen, hat, long-sleeved shirt – whatever you do to protect yourself from the sun.
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Olympic National Park Visit

Friday promised to be a great weather day, so I decided to make the drive up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park to enjoy the scenery and get a little hike in. Side note – I bought a new pair of hiking boots and have been breaking them in around town, so this was going to be my first trip “off-road” with the new boots.

One thing I know about Hurricane Ridge is that if you don’t arrive early, it will be crowded. I took off from home with my lunch packed at about 6:30 and made my way up to Port Angeles and eventually Hurricane Ridge. It was a pretty uneventful drive and I found the parking area at the visitor’s center to be mostly empty. Perfect! I headed out for the Klahhane Ridge trail.

It was already pretty warm and the bugs were out in full force, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. I made my way up the trail (it is a bit steep in spots, but well maintained) and enjoyed pretty quiet trail conditions. The trail is pretty much fully exposed to the morning sun, and it didn’t take long to work up a good sweat as I continued to rise and fall along the trail. Great views in every direction!

I took a little time to enjoy my lunch after returning to the parking lot and watched the crowds build. The parking lot was pretty full when I left at around 11:00.

Hurricane Ridge visitor’s center.
A deer relaxes before the crowds arrive.
Klahhane Ridge Trail.
The crowds picked up on Klahhane Ridge Trail. This is taken from the road.
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An Oregon Loop

One of the more laid back motorcycle rallies I participate in is called the Oregon Airport Tour. 10 small airports spread all over Oregon with a visit window anytime during the riding season. It is a great way to explore Oregon and its spectacular scenery. Seriously, if you haven’t explored Oregon a little, you are missing out.

I looked at my route that included 4 airports near Bend and Medford and quickly decided that I needed to include a trip through Crater Lake and maybe up the Oregon coast. I was traveling on Thursday and Friday, so my thinking was that Crater Lake would be best visited on Thursday to cut down on crowds, and since the Oregon coast is ALWAYS slow, it wouldn’t matter which day I took that route.

The ride down to Bend started a little damp but quickly improved, and I used a less travelled route along OR-224 on the advice of a few area friends. It was a nice detour off the busy interstate and I enjoyed the beautiful forest scenery along the Clackamas River. A relaxing sit down lunch (uncommon on most of my rides) at a little place called the Korner Post in Detroit, Oregon was also enjoyable.

Not much traffic to hold me up on my way south and I made it to Crater Lake by 4pm. The east rim road is still closed in some spots due to snow (in July!), so I took the west rim road and slowly made my way around part of the lake, making several stops for pictures and visual enjoyment. Not too many people around and most parking areas and turnouts had open spots available. The weather was perfect with sunny skies and mid-60 temperatures. There was still a bit of snow on the roadside in the shady areas. It boggles my mind to think about how much snow they must have received this winter!

Crater Lake with Wizard Island featured.
The obligatory bike shot 🙂
Still some snow along the shoreline. I bet that water is COLD!

I had seen a neat stop on the map after leaving Crater Lake that was near enough to my planned route, so I made a small detour to Prospect Falls and the Avenue of Boulders along OR-62. It was easy to view from the bridge over the river, but harder to enjoy from water level as it was a bit of a hike and I didn’t have good shoes for that activity, so I stuck to the road level views. The Rogue River flows through this area.

Avenue of Boulders at Prospect Falls.
Prospect Falls near Prospect, Oregon.

The trip home was frustrating. I went out to the coast hoping for some nice scenery and lower temperatures, but the slow drivers were out in force on a Friday and I was making slow progress, so I headed back over to I-5 near Portland in the hope of making better time. Big mistake! “Police activity” on I-84 had that interstate closed at the junction with I-5 , and the ensuing backup lasted over an hour through Portland in near 90F temperatures. Should have stayed on the slow coast route.

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NYC Trip

A while ago, Jeannette won some tickets to see Hamilton over the holiday weekend in a drawing, so we headed off to NYC for the show and to visit with Melissa and David. My Mom and Joe also came down to join us at the show. We had a very enjoyable, and busy, weekend.

Flying to NYC on July 4th was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part involved the city – there was virtually no traffic and our taxi driver made record time to our hotel on 28th. The curse was SEATAC (again!). That place was a zoo, and we spent about 45 minutes in the security line before finally making it to the other side. We met up with everyone for dinner and found no crowds because everyone was headed south to go to the fireworks show.

A cool church bell tower we saw on our walk to dinner.
The Empire State Building was all lit up for the 4th!

Friday was a lot of walking around. After lunch at a place called Murray’s Cheese Bar (one of Melissa’s favortie places), we ventured down to see Chelsea Market (just my opinion, but Pikes Place Market is better) and then headed over to talk a stroll along the Highline Trail. For those who have not enjoyed the Highline Trail, it is a repurposed raised train track that has been converted to a walking trail with lots of plants and flowers. It also enjoys great views of different sections of the city. It was a good time. Dinner plans brought us to a little Italian restaurant that served really good, authentic food.

Murray’s Cheese Bar in NYC – good stop!
Streets of NYC from the Highline walking trail.
Empire State Bulding in the background from the Highline Trail.
Streets of NYC from the Highline Trail.
The “Vessel” in NYC. This is a really cool “building” that is just a collection of stairs to get to the top.
Several of hundreds of water towers on rooftops – seen from our hotel rooftop bar.

Saturday finally arrived and we had our plans for the show in the early afternoon. After a short walk to a neighborhood deli for lunch, we hopped in an Uber and headed to Times Square and the Richard Rodgers theatre for Hamilton. It was just as good as I imagined it would be and we all enjoyed it a lot.

Melissa had to take us to a local favorite restaurant called Jacob’s Pickles. Southern comfort food is the focus, and she swore it was the best…and she was right! Tight seating and very loud – pretty typical of NYC restaurants in my limited experience. The food was awesome! I enjoyed the best fried chicken and biscuits I have ever had. Melissa took us to another of her favorite spots after dinner – the West Side COmedy Club. It was a great show and I even got to see Sam Morril, among others. I have listened to Sam Morril on the Comedy Channel before – he is a great performer and didn’t dissapoint.

Richard Rodgers theatre – waiting for Hamilton to start 🙂
If you are in NYC on the west side, stop in for lunch or dinner…and then don’t plan to eat again for days – Jacob’s Pickles.
A good time in the West Side Comedy Club.

A great weekend spent with family. Hoping to go back to NYC, maybe not during the summer months next time 🙂

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