Day 16
June 19th, 2007
Country Manor Motel
Montrose, Colorado

We slept late this morning.  Our cabin was a great 3 bedroom unit with kitchen and living area.  It was nice.  I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while we discussed the upcoming activities.

Our plan is to check out Black Canyon National Park, eat lunch in Gunnison, then ride SR 92.  Neither of us had ever been on 92, but it looked like a fun road.

"I need to go by the Honda Shop to see if they have a part for my helmet, it ain't doin right,"  Uncle Phil said.
"Ok, I think there's one right down the street."

We geared up and rode out on another pristine Rocky Mountain morning.

The Honda shop had just opened but they didn't have Uncle's part.  It was a good try.

We left the city on U.S. 50 East and made the short ride to the Black Canyon, one of the nation's best kept secrets we were later to learn.

The highway (SR 347) leading up to the park is good.  Nice curves but the entire ride you are steadily moving up in elevation.  The weather was perfect, mild and sunny.

At the entrance gate Uncle Phil whipped out his National Park season pass, if a guy is going to be visiting more then a few parks in a season it is the way to go.  From the entrance gate we made a  steep climb and began the long descent down to the canyon.  The road had been freshly resurfaced, it is smooth and tempered.
​A long downhill ride to the river.
The twisty descent takes patience.  Steep hills flow down from the road bed, and in many places no guard rails.  Along the way I stopped for pictures and lost sight of Uncle Phil who continued on down to the bottom.  The walls of the canyon are dark, the surrounding chasms are very high and sunlight is a hit or miss proposition down low.
​Black Canyon of the Gunnison
I held the 1300 back in 2nd gear, using the compression to brake the long drop.  The canyon is stunning in its beauty.  The black walls are a sharp contrast with the green river banks.  

At the bottom we pulled in for more pics and video.  The river flowed quietly and the canyon was as serene a places as I'd ever been.  Many years ago the Gunnison was damed to provide water for the surrounding areas, but it took a lot of work to tame the river.
​Uncle Phil took this pic at the bottom of the canyon.  I'll
return here to camp someday.

The cliffs towered far above us, trying to look to the top caused a neck strain.

A very nice campground is situated in the canyon and I made a mental note to one day return here and camp for a night.

Uncle Phil was most impressed with the Park, and he doesn't impress easily, so that should tell you something.
We fired the Hondas back up and made the climb out of the canyon and returned to the rim road.  We followed it all the way to the end.  We stopped at many of the overlooks for various pictures and video.   It seemed each vista was better then the last.  The natural beauty of the USA never ceases to amaze me, just when I think I've seen it all, I find a place like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
​This picture is from one of the rim road vistas
"We better keep things in check,"  Uncle Phil said, "we're probably still in the national park system from yesterday." 

I chuckled at that, but did like he said.  We rode back out of the park at 25 mph, ending a 2 hour visit.  The Black Canyon is one of the top 5 places in my travels.
" Another view from the canyon floor.
We waved goodbye at the ranger lady and went back to the highway.  The turnoff for SR 92 comes before Gunnison.  Uncle Phil said he needed gas soon, and not sure what was available on 92 we had to make a call.  "We might oughta ride east into Gunnison to get gas, but thats gonna be a extra 15 miles each way."  I was in front so when the turn off for 92 arrived I made the executive decision to go on to Gunnison.  "We'll just have to double back, running outta gas way in those isolated mountains would really suck."

U.S. 50 into Gunnison was a mixed bag.  Good scenery, especially the Blue Mesa Reservoir, but way too many cars.  We were hemmed up in a construction zone for a long time, and when the pilot truck  finally came for us he led us over a long stretch of dirt and gravel.  The dust from the vehicles in front of us set my hay fever off in a wild frenzy.  

In Gunnison, we gassed at a con store on the west side, then rode into the business district looking for something to eat.  We found a steakhouse there whose name I failed to remember.  There was only room for one bike so I had to park across the street.  Uncle Phil was about to go inside when he noticed the stand on the 1100 was not going to keep the bike upright very long in the soft asphalt.  I helped move it to more solid ground.
I went to the rest room to wash my face to remove the dust, hoping that would relieve my itchy eyes and sneezing.  It helped, but not completely.  I sent my son a text, and told him if he talked to his mother to tell her I'll call her later when I get back to the room.

After lunch it was warm.  We rode back west on U.S. 50 to SR 92.  I hate paying for the same real estate twice (Gen. Patton quote) but given the options, we had little choice.

SR 92 is a great road.  Tall mountains, lots of curves, but again, long dangerous cliffs if you made a mistake.  We kept the STs reined in on the long climbs.  I followed Uncle Phil's lines as we carved up the side of 10,000 foot mountains.  These mountains were more arid, and brown looking than yesterday's peaks near Ouray.  Snow on the peaks were long gone.

The right track was cluttered in rocks and dust, so many of our lines were less than ideal.  Taking these curves at anything less than cautious was crazy.  Nice photo ops were everywhere and we stopped often.

I came to a long and hard bending right hander at the crest of a bluff.  A nice turnout was overlooking the valleys and river down below, and distant mountain peaks shimmered in hot the afternoon sun.  I left the highway to capture a few images.
"distant mountain peaks shimmered in the hot afternoon sun"

Walking along the bluff I noticed a cross on the opposite shoulder.  I found it among the rocks and weeds and went over to check it out.  It was here, on this curve, Bob Hawkins, lost his life.  The cross was inscribed with his name.  His leather do rag tied to the base, was weathered and cracked from the long Colorado winters, and now the hot sun.  Other memorabilia and papers were about, but I didn't read them.  How this rider died here I don't know.  Perhaps he left the road and went over the long drop off, maybe he ran into the sheer wall, or low sided into oncoming traffic, then again a stray vehicle could have crossed over and hit HIM?   These things I didn't know, only that he is no longer in this world.  I'm sure he died doing what he loved, and went out on his own terms.  The scene reminded me to be careful, and always ride aware.

They have a name for the wind out here-Maria, and it blew steady on this high mountain bluff.  I could hear it whistle through my helmet, and felt its coolness on my nose.  The grass around me swayed in the wind, and caused me to think it could represent the presence of others who once stalked this great land.
​​ "I'm sure he died doing what he loved,"
​  One of the long climbs on SR 92.
Not a single vehicle of any type came by while I was parked.  One of the reasons I love riding out west so much.
I needed to catch up with Uncle Phil, so got back on the road.  Sobered by the scene on the mountain, the 1300 and high gently rolled down the hill, leaning enough to have fun, but way short of scraping anything.  I caught up with Uncle Phil who was stationed on a crest taking pictures.  "Dang Uncle Phil, you've taken more pics the last 2 days then the previous year."  "Yeah been kinda nice."  Reunited we came off the mountain peaks into a large valley grassland.  The temp was soaring, it was well into the 90s now.

The ranches we rode past were big, they looked to be mostly cattle farms, but I could be wrong, being the city I am.

After an awesome ride we made it to Crawford, which was a store with a motel overhead, and few other buildings.  In the parking lot a Buell and a BMW GS sat, the riders gathered around a table inside.  "Hey what's goin on?"  Uncle called out.  "Not much, just hanging out."  Each were riding 2 up.  I went to the freezer for a ice cream sandwich.  The other riders advised they were checking into the motel upstairs.  "Dang, they're gonna spend the night here?"  I really didn't see why anyone would want to do that, but like Uncle Phil said when I commented to him about it, "Well, some folks are just wired a little different."  "Yeah I guess so."

We stayed on 92 through Hotchkiss, Lazera and Austin.  The riding was much less spectacular, and for most part we were just looking to get to the "barn."  By the time we made it to Delta it was 100 degrees.

U.S. 50 south to Montrose was a mediocre ride, but fast.  We came back to the motel after a 217 mile day.

After parking the bikes I went around to the vending machines for something to drink. I made a few phone calls and even managed to get online in the motel lobby.  I went to my checking account to check the money situation.  "Way under budget, I can motel all the way home if I want."  

Debbie told me Chris was coming to Prattville this weekend to pick up a few things.  He had a apartment in Mobile but was sleeping on the floor.  "He's gonna need some help getting his bed down there, but he has to do it on Sunday."  "I wasn't planning on returning till Sunday, but let me take a look and see if I can make it back Saturday."  "Ok, that would be nice."

Next I went out to the 1300 and cleaned off the screen, also checked the oil, I don't know why, just thought I should.  It was still the same after 6,000 hard miles from Alabama.

We went back to the Red Barn for supper.  A number of bikes had gathered in the parking lot, and it looked like a happening place.  I ordered the same items as the night before.  Uncle Phil had the rib eye, and reported it was excellent.

Our conversation covered a lot of things, but it usually came back to riding and motorcycles.  He asked me about the Mississippi Headwaters.  "So what did ya find up there?"  "Not much, a pond, and some wetlands, but it was pretty neat."  "Think I'm gonna take a ride that way soon, and down to Big Bend."  "I hada good trip down there, you'll like it."  Like anyone with a lot of miles, he has a lot funny stories from the road.

One not so funny was his recent ride up on Lolo.  Seems he hit a monster frost heave in a  curve, that bounced him off line, into the opposite lane as a car bore down.  "The joker in the car saw what was coming off and slowed for me and I made it back over."  "Dang, I had that happen to me once but took me to the shoulder, what'd ya think?"  ""Funny", I just said, "well I reckon this is how I go out."

On the way back to the room we stopped off at the con store for something sweet, then had nice stroll to the cabin.  It was almost dark when we entered.

I flipped the TV on as we chatted some more.  We talked about a trip to the Alps next summer.  He has that trip pretty much planned out, but after hearing the details I don't know if I'm going to make it or not, not really the way I'd do it.  I'd like to spend more time in the lowlands, visit a few WWII sites, then ride up to the Alps, but Uncle Phil says he just wants blitz across France, ride as many passes as possible and book back to the UK.  No doubt I'd slow them down too much.  If I'm going to the trouble of Europe, I want to see as much as I can while I'm there, and not have to go back on ANOTHER trip to see what I missed.

"I dunno Uncle Phil, if the point of the trip is to see the Alps, I'm thinking fly into Germany and already be THERE.  That would save several days and hundreds of dollars in itself, with the price of gas and all, it ain't gonna be cheap to ride across France to get to the mountains."  No matter how you slice it, going to take serious money for THAT ride.  We've been talking about it since our return from the UK, so I won't rule it out.  We'll see.
I don't know if I changed his mind or not, but like HE says, some are wired different. 

Not long after that Uncle Phil started sorting his stuff for the ride back to Nashville.  HE was traveling light this tour.  In fact he had nothing packed on the seat, everything was in the top case and panniers.

I decided a long time ago I wanted to ride U.S. 50 across Monarch, out to the Front Range, and across Kansas on SR 96.
"I'm thinking of riding south into New Mexico, pick out a few roads, then finish up on I-40, I don't want deal with that construction zone on 50 again."
"Try SR 518 south out of Taos, pretty good road and it will take ya down to I-40, I'll see ya in the morning bro," and I headed off to bed.

Before turning the lights off I took out my atlas and GPS to see how I could trim a day off and arrive back in Prattville Saturday afternoon.  My original plan was 300 miles to Scott City Kansas, then west Missouri, then Cape Giradeau, and home the next day.

"I can ride an extra 100 east tomorrow, another 200 the next day, and get to Cape Giradeau by Friday."  I still wanted to ride back roads home.  Many, in the last few days of a long tour, do nothing but ride to get home, and miss out on a lot of good riding.  My last day, as most are, would be all interstate home.  When I get a day from home, there is nothing for me to see, so I just ride.

Of course all that depended on good weather, and no flat tires.  I don't worry about anything on the Honda breaking.  It WILL get me home.  Evening weather put no fronts between Colorado and home, but some rain to the south.  I should only have isolated afternoon thunderstorms to deal with.

I didn't need to change anything on the GPS.  "Those will still be my routes, when I get to Scott City tomorrow I'll just bring up the next day and keep going."

With a good plan all layed out, I hit the lights and rolled over.