Day 5
October 14th, 2016
Goulding Campground
Monument Valley, Navajo Nation

​I broke camp with the Eastern sun rising over the bluffs of the campground.  It is well after 7am before any significant daylight this time of year. The price to pay to tour in October.  That translates into less miles in a day.  I don't ride at night unless necessary.  In my opinion it's a risk I don't need to take. Night riding in strange lands, on backroads not any fun.  I moslty fear deer.  Not that you can't have a encounter in middle of the day, but deer or more actvie at night, and you can't see as well.  

The zumo 390 was in the cradle and locked on a signal.  I went to the routes folder and brought up the course for today.  Read outs noted I was looking close at 500 miles before the end of the day.

It took the usual 30 minutes to load the Yamaha and get on the road.  The RV section of the campground was almost full as I slipped past them back to the service road that connects to U.S. 163, where I turned North to ride into the heart of the valley.  The few clouds that came in late yesterday had cleared out, leaving a painted blue sky.  Another perfect riding day was unfolding.
I left wearing my cool weather gear.  Jersey and leather gloves, instead of mesh gloves and t shirt, the only difference in cool and hot weather gear for me.

On the way out I stopped to take a picture of Monument Valley High School.  How grand it must be to attend school in the midst of such landscape.  Good thing I was never a student, I would've been looking out the windows all day.  ​The green football field stood out in this land of red rocks and desert sands.  I pondered what a friday night football game must be like here.

"The green football field stood out in this land of red rocks and desert sands."

I can't describe  how I feel riding through Monument Valley.  It is here I feel like a true Long Rider.  It was a great way to start the ride back East.  A bright morning sun lit the monuments and the wind buffeted me in a precise, even mannner.  I kept the speed down on the FJR so I could savor the last few miles across the valley.  

As wonderful as Monument Valley is, I could not live here or anywhere close.  I thought to my home in Prattville.  My neighborhood community is bordered on 2 sides by a nearby PGA golf course, my backyard views are of stunning sunsets over fields, meadows, and flowing hills.  It is green beyond measure, anyone living in the desert could not imagine the bounty of life near my little community.  Water is abundant.  Rivers, lakes, ponds, creeks, are everywhere.   No, I must return to where whence I came, but it is fun to sample life in far away places. 

A Shell station stood ready for me when I entered Mexican Hat.  I pulled to it and topped off the tank and fired off a text to Debbie.

"On the road, call later."

The ride today covers one from long ago.  On my FIRST cross country ride in 2001, I rode East across Colorado, and Wolf Creek Pass.  Today I'll be doing the same, looking to camp in a state park near Trinidad.  In all my rides across Colorado, not been over Wolf Creek Pass since that day in 2001.

It was a peaceful morning.  I was ahead of the tourists and riding didn't require much concentration.  I kept glancing around at the rock formations as I went by.  It was nice to have the road to myself.  I was alone in a wilderness of sand, mesas, and red rocks.  I struggled to keep the FJR in check on the fast, open roads.  Finally I relented and let it roll up to 120 mph for a few miles.  It was exhilirating, the Feejer thanked me.  

 ​The following images U.S. 163, passing by "TheValley of the Gods.'

The ride from Monument Valley to Colorado was the epitome of the over used word known as "epic."  Great morning ride.

U.S. 163 took me into Utah where I went to SR 162.  A few miles later, a young Navajo, riding some kind of dirt bike, saw me ride by his adobe and jumped out behind me to follow.   I slowed and allowed him to draw to close.  He looked over to me and then stood up on the back wheel, I gave my approval with a thunbs up and sped off in the distance.

I went into Colorado and found myself back on U.S. 160.  I took the long way to Cortez, but I didn't want to ride the same roads going out as coming in.  I stopped often for pictures on this morning and it slowed me.  In Cortez, I picked up the route from 2001 and rode east.  It was mid morning.

Even though I had been through here before, nothing looked familar, 15 years can do that.  
I was still having trouble with the once compliant Yamaha seat.  I was only 100 miles or so into this segment, and already my butt was complaining.  "I'm gonna hafta to address the seat issue when I get back home."   I had 2-3 pressure points and they were growing worse by the mile.  I stayed with it all the way to Durango, where I left my route to look for a pasta lunch.  I asked the Garmin to find me something, what he found was a local place downtown. The city was busy.  It looked like ski season so many people.

   Downton Durango                     

I got lucky when I found a open meter across the street from a place (failed to note the name) boasting fire brick pizza.  The meter took Visa?  I didn't have any change so followed the directions.  It was a little confusing but I figured it out.  I bought one hour of parking time for 1.00? Not sure.  Inside I took a place at the bar.

A female bartender stepped over-

"Watcha gonna have?"

"Lemme have one of those lunch pepperonis' baby with a Sprite."

The pizza looked good from the outside, but it was a huge dissappoint.  I ate what I could, and that was it.  Such is life on the road, you take the good with the bad.  Lesson learned.  I strolled back across the street to ride out.  Durango has a nice character to it, I suggest checking it out if you find yourself in the area.

​ I continued East on 160, bound for Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass.  Traffic was prounounced but moving swiftly on the wide 2 lane highway.   My butt was feeling better after the long break.

Pagosa Springs is a much bigger place than I remember it.  The Zumo guided me through the town.  I was on 2 bars when I spotted a Shell station so I came in top off.  I was working the pump when a guy at the next pump mentioned, "what kind of bike is that?"  "Yamaha FJR,"  "Great looking bike."  "Thanks."  I keep my money clip and cards secured in wallet thing, and then zip THAT in the MotoFizz bag with the strap tied off to the bag.  Double protection in case I forget to zip the pocket.  They emailed a receipt to me, saying I bought 15.45 of Vpower gas.  I also added a few points to the ESA setting to stiffen the rear end for the ride into the mountains.

The run through the San Juan Mountains to Wolf Creek was special.  I was thinking back to 2001, and my first ride ever in the Rocky Mountains.  I was positively moved and awestruck that day, that I was actually doing it.  I was riding places I had only wished and dreamed about.  When a wish comes true you bask in the moment.  All that came back to me and I smiled in my helmet.  Since that day I have criss crossed the Colorado Rockies most anyway can do it.  I also thought back to the state trooper that day who pulled me over for doing 65 but let me go.  I was close to the section of road where that went down.

In a remarkable case of coincidence I captured the same picture I took in 2001.  I didn't plan it.  In fact, I had long forgotten the picture until the night I was sorting through the photos of this tour here in my study.  "That picture looks familar."  I went to the 2001 West Coasd Journal and there it was.  It is easy to see the 2001 picture was taken with 30mm throwaway camera you could buy at any drug store at the time.  The cripsness of the 12 pixel Canon Powershot stands testimony to the effectiveness of progress.   I guess it shouldn't be surprising I stopped in the same spot.   After all, it offered a safe place to take the picture, and if the scene caught my eye in 2001, stood to reason it would again.  

The nearby trees were green in June, but in October 2016 already dropped their leaves.  Clouds swirled the peaks back then and snow was still on the ground at Wolf's Creek Pass.

Oct. 2016
June 2001

I tried to put in perspective 15 years life experience lived from 2001.  What a great run my life has been.  Much has happened since then, and as I rode on to the Pass, I thought to all the wonders that came my way.   Things were in store for me I could not have imagined that June morning.

Snow was absent from the peaks, my guess the first snowfall was a couple weeks away.

Elevation grew as the Feejer went into the mountains proper.  Equipped with new Pilot Roads by Michelin, it tracked steady and stuck to the highway.  Leaning hard, I came around slow moving traffic, that politely moved to the truck lane when they saw me coming in the mirror.  Temps droped 10 degrees in the 12000 ft peaks.  My recollection of the pass was a marker of some kind, and not far from there, a dark, wet, tunnel with a curve.

I was looking for the marker to grab a photo op when I noticed, "I'm descending, did I miss it?"  I rode downhill for half mile leaning, when I saw a road crew and came in to quiz them.  "Did I pass the marker?"  "Yeah go back up, about half mile."  "What side is it on?"  "This one."  Why I missed it.  I remembered it on the west side of 160, not the east.  The tricks 15 years plays on a Long Rider.

Back at the marker I documented crossing the Great Divide with a few pics.  Nothing left now but come down out of the mountains, cross the Plains, and then the Mississippi River and home.  Unlike the mountain picture the pictures below were planned.  I KNEW I took a picture in 2001, and I wanted to recapture it in 2016.


 The best I can tell the 2 end frames have switched sides on the marker.  Probably some kind of renovation was done and they decided to change it on the  reinstall.   A new base was also placed in the front.   Note the snow still on the ground in 2001.  I was proud to be here and still riding 15 years later.  Thank you Lord.

U.S. 160 is a nice road, many curves, smooth surface, and wide.  When the curves became less numerous I moved the screen higher to block the cool mountain air.  Fall color was bright, mostly yellow aspens with a few red trees.  It was excellent riding. I highly recommend a Fall Rocky Mountain tour for anyone that loves to ride.  I gathered the collar of the Klim to block a draft coming in around my neck.

By the time I made it to Del Norte my butt was stiff again, and sore.  I found a DQ passing through town and went to it.  "This will be something different."  Yes, my butt was stiff, but I needed to check messages and  figure out my options for later.  I ordered a strawberry sundae and mulled over my atlas.  "I'm not gonna make Trinidad today, too ambitious, I can't get there before dark, and I don't want to set up camp in the dark."  I have grown soft over the years folks.  In the depths of summer, with 16 hour days, on a fast road, not a big deal.  I'm on 2 lane backroads, and the park I have in mind is on SR 12, 40 or so miles in the foothills, the GPS said I had over 100 miles to my desination.   "Has to be a deer out there with my name on it.  I'll ride another hour or two and see what happens."

I called Debbie and checked in.

"Yeah I'm gonna ride on to Walsenberg and find a motel."

"ok let me know when you get in"

"I will."

With late afternoon coming on, I geared back up and hit the road.

The highway hummed under me.  I was coming down from the mountains and in a few miles would be on the vast Front Range of Colorado.  The land is stark out here, and not much to witness.   The playground in my mind came to life as I passed the miles thinking of the things I only think about while riding.  I don't listen to music when I ride, but I sing all the time.  

It was Friday, and the towns of Monte VIsta and Alamosa were bubbling with excitement for coming weekend.

I was passing through Fort Garland when I found a local motel with a steakhouse down the street.  The Lodge Motel is situated on 160 so I piloted the FJR to the front check in after a 388 mile day.  I was surprised to be close to 400 miles, it didn't seem that far.  The sun was getting low when I read the sign on the front door-

"if the door is locked, we are working on the outside, someone will come."

A minute or 2 later a attractive blonde lady came to the door and greeted me.

 minute or 2 later a attractive blonde lady came to the door and greeted me.
"hey there what can I do for you?"

"Need a room baby."  The complex looked to have a 35 rooms, all on the ground floor with a log cabin feel.

"all I have is one room left and its a smoking unit, still want it?"

I thought a minute.  The Lodge had all that I needed.  Ground floor, good price, steakhouse within walking distance.  "I'll make due."  Like I say, a Long Rider has to be adaptable.  It will make your life easier on the road.  "Where are you from,"  she asked.  "Alabama."  "I'm from Florida, Tampa to be exact, you ever been there?"  "A few times yes.  What's a girl from Florida doin in such a cold place?"

"my mother married this guy and he bought this place, she asked me to come help her.  This will be my second winter here."

"how'd it go on the first?"

"long, and cold"


The Lodge is what I call a "retro motel."  No computers for checking in.  I filled out the registration card with a pen, gave it back to her and she filed it in a box.  I looked around the office and saw the pamphlets in the rack for tourist trap places etc.  "Visit Big Canyon park!  See wonderous things!  None of which live up to expectations.

I opened the door of my room and tobacco scent knocked me over.  It was bad, but here I was.  Unloading the bike went quickly, finished that, I took plexus to the FJR and the Shoei so I'd have nice clean screens to start the day tomorrow.  With the TV on I sat at the table and went to look over the next day.  "Long day tomorrow.  I GOT to have a early start if I'm to make Wichita."

                 Lodge Motel at sunset, Fr. Garland, Colorado  
The FJR checks in for the night

The sun was sliding into the land while I did some light walking near the motel.  I saw the young lady that checked me in and asked, "so what's goin on you're sold out tonight?"  "Mostly hunters."  "oh ok, no Long Riders but me?"

"That I can't tell ya"

Back in the room I took a nice shower and shave.  The room was nothing fancy but clean, outside the smoke odor.  I feared it would permeate my clothes and gear.

It was dark when I took the short stroll to the Silver Sage for supper.  Even the steakhouse was retro and reminded me of 60s and 70's place I use to eat back in Montgomery in the day.  When I walked in the door I thought I was in that movie, "Casino," filmed to be in the early 60s.  The place was semi busy, and it took a minute to be seated.

The bar was in the dining area, but another bigger dining room was down the hall.  She sat me at a booth and left a menu.  I already knew what I wanted.  NY srip.  A young lady came for my order.  "Baby bring me one of those NY strips, and tell him medium well, with fries and a Coke."  Ice tea in this part of the country is out of the question.

A few locals were at the bar and seemed to be having fun.  "Probably ranch hands, mechanics, and BLM workers."  I didn't see any industry or many small shops and offices in Fort Garland for people to work.

 " A few locals were at the bar and seemed to be having fun. " 

 ​I was sitting quietly passing the wait time with my phone, when a young man wearing Stetson called over to me.  "Hey you're not from around here are ya?"

"Nooooo, just passing through"

"stayin at the motel?"

"matter of fact I am"

"welcome to Ft Garland, don't let all this excitement intmidate ya"

"I'll try LOL"

The waitress set my steak down and I can tell you it was a fine piece of meat.  Seared on a flat iron stove it was just right.  Bread and fries also good.  The owner came over to my table and thanked me for coming in and asked if I need anything.  I continued to watch the locals at the bar.  They had worked hard all week, and now had the weekend to enjoy.  The days are short now, and growing shorter and colder as winter approaches.  My guess this is where they hang out to pass the long, dark, cold nights of the season.

The owner took personal care of the patrons.

The owner came and asked if I needed anything.  "No sir, y'all did good, thank you."

My young waitress left my bill in the clip and came back for it when I was ready.  She placed it on the table for me to sign.  I left her a 10 dollar tip cash inside.  I hung around a few more minutes and enjoyed the locals.  They offered to buy me a drink, "I appreciate that, but I'm going back to the room, y'all have a good night, ladies it was a pleasure."  They smiled and nodded.  
I was walking by the hostess station going out when my young waitress addressed me.  "Thank you sir."  "Your welcome young lady."  My guess her tips are but a few dollars a table on most nights.

It was stone dark as I walked the short distance along 160 to my room.   It was coolish and the wind was gently blowing across the land.  I gave the traffic on the road plenty of buffer.  In the room the tv was on as I made a few journal notes in my Iphone.  Long ago I used pencil and paper, now I have a app for that.

I called Debbie and wished her good night and turned the light off.  The smell bothered me, but it was my choice, so didn't complain.  Probably wouldn't do it again, but the room was quiet.  I set my alarm for 5am.

Next Day 6-  Into Kansas and Dodge City!