Saturday, June 30, 2007

Colorado - Day 3

Day 3
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Start: Great Bend, KS, 8:15 am
End: Monarch, CO, 7:00 pm
Mileage: 523

The route for Day 3: Great Bend, KS to Monarch, CO. Entering the Rocky Mountains.

We were officially done with slab yesterday, but we still had around 350 miles of state highways through Kansas and Colorado before hitting the Rocky Mountains. One of the reasons we chose to ride through Kansas' state highways was the ability to cruise at high speeds. There's very little enforcement and traffic, which allowed us to cruise in the triple digits. We got up and rode to Garden City, where we had a good country breakfast. I had the biscuits and gravy. Mmm mmm good, but not really ideal for riding...

Steven doing a little electrical maintenance on the bike. I think the battery terminal was loose.

Yes, we would finally be entering the heavenly state of Colorado. All though it would be another 150 miles or so till we hit the Rockies. And I think the sign could really use a bit of color… (Picture by Aileen)

Once we hit Pueblo, the original plan was to ride down CO-78 and climb this twisting looking bit into the mountains. Alas, our hopes were dashed 20 miles later when we saw a sign for "Gravel, Next 9 miles" including switchbacks. We had to turn around to Pueblo and enter the Rockies on CO-96, which wasn't bad at all.

On CO-78, the supposedly last bit of straight road before hitting the twisties in dem dar hills outside Pueblo.

But alas, it was all gravel twisties climbing up the mountain. (Picture by Andy)

Heading back to the pavement with Andy who missed the sign that said "Gravel, next 9 miles". We rode back to Pueblo to try another entry into the Rockies. (Picture by Aileen)

Now this is more like it. CO-96 had some decent twisties with some nice scenery. Pleasing. (Picture by Andy)

Yes, that's a storm brewing right behind me in Silver Cliff. We tried to outrun it but ended up getting nailed for a few minutes. Huge water drops. (Picture by Andy)

US-50 is a nice road, but there's too much through traffic on that road. It did make for a nice passing fest. We stopped in Salida to buy some beers for the campground at Monarch, which was about 10 miles from town. This would be our first night of camping and most of us would be using our camping gear for the first time and also preparing our own dinner for real. The change in altitude (8000 ft) was noticed when we had to walk up to the shower house, losing our breath pretty quickly. And I was hoping none of us would suffer from Altitude Sickness.

Our camp site at Monarch Spur Campground (around 8500 ft). We were nicely isolated from the rest of the RVs.

Rick, unloading his house that he packed in his hard luggage. Talk about traveling light.

Andy unpacking a matress pad and Rick setting up an individual tent, which we all had as it takes less space on the bike.

Motorcycle Art… Steven's boots being aired by the stream running by our campsite.

Makeshift Fridge - using the cold icy water to chill the brew. Nope, we didn't lose any bottles.

My tent under the tree.

Tent city

Nice to think that we rode here with everything that's setup here.

What a beautiful campsite…

Dinner time! Andy and Aileen got freeze-dried food which just needs hot water to rehydrate some tasty dinners.

Andy taking a piss, I mean filling water from his bladder into the JetBoil, which boils water very quickly.

Aileen preparing the origami dinner-ware (plastic, foldable bowls and cups) and that's a Spork (spoon with a fork).

The dinner table. Rick, Steven and I brought MREs, which Rick got a from a military surplus store. (Picture by Aileen)

I thought it was a Meal Ready to Eat. Liars, looks like it needs some preparation.

All the items that come with one MRE: main meal, heating packet, crackers, raisins, pop-tart, peanut butter and lemonade powder. The residual heat from the heating packet was great for sore muscles.

It become quite messy with all the packaging material.

Steven enjoying his Beef Stew. The food actually tasted pretty good.

Rick, trying to find gold with his cookware, like they probably did in these mountains back in the day.

The Abominable Snowman running around camp.

Sorting through laundry (done in the shower house) by a nice big fire. Mmmm, I love campfires.

Next: Day 4, Million Dollar Highway & Ouray, CO

Ride Report Index

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Colorado - Day 1 & 2

Day 1
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Start: Barrington, IL, 6:15 pm
End: Iowa City, IA, 10:30 pm
Mileage: 220

The route for Day 1: Barrington, IL to Iowa City, IA on I-88 and I-80.

Just like last year's trip to Montana where we had around a 1000 miles of Interstate (slab) before the twisties, we decided to leave on a Thursday evening and put away about 200 miles so that we'd only have one full day of slab before hitting the mountains on Day 3. We all met up in Dekalb (west of Chicago) and hit I-88 heading towards Iowa City. I've never actually been on I-88 outside the city and it's actually quite a nice bit of freeway. It was also very empty and the scenery was decent with nice rolling green hills. We also were riding into a very stunning sunset, where it seemed like it took forever to get completely dark.

Steven, myself and Rick leaving from Rick's house to Dekalb to meet up with Andy and Aileen.

The group ready to roll-out from Dekalb.

Rick using duct tape to seal a hole in Steven's rain suit. There's always some picture of Steven doing something crazy…

The bikes under flourescent light in the special parking area of our motel (on the sidewalk).

Finishing off dinner with some cheesecake. Steven waiting to get in on the action. (Picture by Aileen)

Day 2
Friday, June 29, 2007
Start: Iowa City, IA, 8:15 am
End: Great Bend, KS, 7:00 pm
Mileage: 571

The route for Day 2: Iowa City, IA to Great Bend, KS heading through Kansas City.

Today would be the full day of slab, and everyone was happily plugged in to their music players. We keep saying bike-to-bike communication would be nice on these long trips, but we never get around to it. It was overcast the whole day and that reduced the temps a bit, however that also lead to some rain throughout most of the day. It was just moist the whole day, not too bad. Andy let me ride his K12S for a bit and I got to play around with the Electronic Suspension Adjustment on that bike. It really does make a difference between Sport and Comfort modes, especially on the rough concrete construction patches. The interstate through Kansas City was actually pretty nice with lots of turns and elevation changes compared to the slab in Chicago.

Rick seems overly excited at the name of this gas station. He's truly an ODB.

Just after getting off the slab, this was the first real corner we came upon and we were so excited that we decided to take a picture of it. That's what riding so much slab will do to you.

Cheyenne Bottoms near Great Bend, KS. The recent rains in the area must have raised the water level where it was only a foot away from the road. It made for a cool shot with the gray road, gray water surface and overcast clouds. (Picture by Aileen)

Myra stands clear in the blur between road, water and sky.

The close to 600 miles of slab we did wasn't bad at all. The trick is to be motivated by knowing the heavenly twisties that lie at the end of this slab. We all have read many ride reports from Colorado and expressed envy at those who get to live in that state for their easy access to awesome roads. And now we'd be railing on them soon. Just thinking about stuff like that almost makes the drone of the slab go away.

A key to doing high mileage days is to reduce the length of rest stops and actually end up taking more breaks but making them quicker. We stopped every 100 miles or so for around 20 minutes. And another way to increase riding stamina throughout the day is not to break for a big sit-down lunch. A big meal will slow you down and make you sleepy in the afternoon, which is not good for riding. Instead we kept snacking at the gas stations throughout the day. We try to stay away from junk food and instead snack on trail mix, fruit, etc. A sit-down lunch also robs about an hour or more from the day's riding and instead we have a big breakfast in the morning and then a hearty rewarding dinner. Another thing we did for breakfast throughout the trip was to get up and ride about 50 to 100 miles before sitting down for a nice hearty breakfast. This also helped tide us over into the late afternoon. This routine again worked really well on this trip.

We stayed at the Travelers Budget Inn for $67 for all five of us in one big room with three queen beds. A little research before the trip lead me to finding some golden deals like the one above.

Brain Buckets of the group: Andy's, Aileen's, Steven's, mine and Rick's (Arai is leading).

Sorry to hurt your eyes with this picture, but Rick's always goofing off. He was thrilled to find this hat.

Waiting for the Beaver Express to open.

Meat. Corn-fed Kansas Steak. And it was reasonably priced too, almost cheap. Rick's holding half of a $25 meal.

The group with an awesome Kansas Steak dinner at Montana Mike's Steakhouse.

Next: Day 3, Monarch, CO

Ride Report Index

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Colorado - Intro

A Tour of Colorado's Mountains to Utah's Canyons on Video


Colorado. Just saying its name conjures up images of the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Images of outdoor activities, such as hiking, white-water rafting and skiing are quickly painted in your mind, along with the smell of fresh air and crystal clear water. Plus, for motorcyclists, it also means tones and tones of twisting tarmac up and over numerous mountain passes. Colorado is touted as the ultimate sport-tourer's paradise as besides having endless twisties, it also has amazing scenery around every corner.

Having ridden the northern Rockies the summer before, it left us salivating for what the southern Rockies held for us. Last year, we thoroughly enjoyed riding through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. And this year, we planned our route through Colorado's mountain passes, Arizona's Grand Canyon and southern Utah's National Parks. All though we could spend a whole week in Colorado itself, we figured we might as well see what Arizona and Utah have to offer, since it's all quite far from Chicago.

Southern Utah in itself was a big attraction to us as the few state roads through that part of that state were mapped as endless twisties. Plus, the scenery of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks were another attraction. And how could we not dip down to Arizona and visit the majestic Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, which I've been yearning to see since I've come to this country.

With the destinations decided, the route took shape covering 4800 miles in 10 days. The riders would be Andy (BMW K1200S), Rick (Ducati ST3), Steven (Kawasaki ZR1200), Aileen (Suzuki GSX-R750) and me on the Suzuki GSX-R600. This would be Aileen's first big sport-touring trip and we all had confidence in her after watching her rapid progress over the past year, having taken the MSF course only last spring.

Andy and I wanted to do some moto-camping on this trip, as it adds another dimension; another way to experience the places we'd be staying at. And we'd have some beautiful camp sites to choose from on this trip: the Grand Canyon, the National Parks in Utah and even the wilds of Colorado. Four camping nights were chosen along with nearby motels incase the weather wasn't cooperating.

We planned the trip over the July 4th weekend as it allows for a longer trip with fewer days off taken from work. Also, we had to make sure to plan our trip such that all the mountain passes through Colorado would be open. Most open after Memorial Day, but some can be closed even in June by freak snow storms. Going in July through Utah and Arizona's low lying regions would certainly mean temperatures in the 100s. But this would be a dry heat and our cooling vests proved adequate in similar temperatures on our trip last summer, so no one was worried. To counter the heat, we'd also be spending extended periods of time at cooler high altitudes through Colorado, from 8,000 ft to 12,000 ft. Regarding the high altitude, altitude sickness is a real concern and besides being properly hydrated before starting the trip, there's not much else one can do to fight it.

Lots of video was shot throughout the trip as it's a much better medium than pictures to capture what it felt like to be there and ride those roads. Just to note that most of the clips below show some good action but not all of them are us railing through twisties. Some clips were used to portray what the road and surrounding area looked like. All the videos can be viewed separately on this YouTube playlist.

There is also an interactive version of this ride report based on Google's new personalized maps. Click on the map below to watch videos and see pictures from the trip as they're marked along the route that we took.

Interactive Google Route Map with Videos and Pictures from the trip. Click the image to experience it.

Overall route map. 4800 miles over 10 days. The route was planned with us entering the Colorado Rockies south of Denver, riding through south-western Colorado, heading over to the Grand Canyon, up into Utah's national parks, and then heading back into Colorado, exiting the Rockies in Fort Collins.

Below is an index of the daily entries for this trip:

Day 1 & 2, Chicago to Great Bend, KS
Day 3, Monarch, CO
Day 4, Million Dollar Highway & Ouray, CO
Day 5, Monument Valley & Grand Canyon North Rim
Day 6, Zion & Bryce Natl Park
Day 7, Capitol Reef & Arches Natl Park
Day 8, Independence Pass to Leadville, CO
Day 9, Exiting Colorado
Day 10 & Epilogue, Heading Home

Saturday, June 16, 2007

New York City

I visited New York City in June to attend a childhood friend's wedding and also meet up with my friend from highschool, Ruchita and her bf, Vijay. We killed some time walking around Central Park and there's some obligatory shots of Times Square, as well.

I like New York, it has a nice vibe to it. Would like to live there at some point, just to experience it.

My friends, Ruchita and Vijay, walking under a characteristic Central Park tunnel. There's a guy playing the sax in the tunnel.

Praticing rock climbing on this massive rock that was probably left here during the last Ice Age (I watch the History Channel).

Ducks on a rock in a big pond, where people were playing with their mini sail boats.

Trying to emulate Balanced Rock at Arches National Park...

Bethesda Fountain the centerpiece of Central Park at sunset.

Vijay, Ruchita and me at Bethesda Fountain.

Capturing the setting sun's ray in quadrants.

The Bethesda Terrace leading to the main mall in the park.

There's all sorts of random life going on in Central Park. Caputring some roller bladers going backwards through a slalom course.

A samba band playing some good beats with people dancing all over.

This girl looked like a professional dancer. She was having a good time.

Dancing on skates...

I love the idea of Central Park, to have this huge green paradise amidst all that concrete.

Big trees in the middle of New York City.

Another random street party...

Times Square with every logo trying to grab your attention.

They have these in third world countries, but they don't look this good. There's even a separation between the driver and the passengers.

A horsey trying to merge into traffic.

The famous One Times Square building, on which the New Years Ball Drop happens. This building was built in 1904 by the New York Times, where Times Square gets its name from. There are no tenants in the building, because it would cost too much to upgrade it to current standards, but it rakes in the mullah from just the ads, which are seen by about one million people everyday walking through Times Square.

From simple billboards, they've upgraded to all out LCD High Def TV screens.

Looking the other way across Times Square.

A high contrast picture to highlight the brightest objects.

That Coke sign on the bottom is considered to be art as it's a 3-D electro-kinetic sculpture with LEDs all over it.

These huge eyes would move around, like Big Brother was literally looking down on us.

All the famous street signs in one area.

The Time Square Subway station, which looks rather dull compared to all the glitz right above.