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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 2

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This is a continuation of Part-1 HERE, of our 4000-mile journey to 4-Corners that led us through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

Cortez to Meeker, CO – When we plotted our original route to 4-Corners, I don’t think any of us imagined riding in such dry, scorching heat through unimaginably desolate terrain.  It seemed like the buzzards were the only thing alive and they were circling patiently overhead for a couple days.  As a result, we decided it was time to head north for some cooler weather.

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass – 10,708 Feet

On this morning’s departure the buzzards had taken the day off. We headed east on Highway 160 toward historic Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We stopped at the Durango Harley-Davidson dealer and picked up a t-shirt and exchanged some information about where to ride with other motorcyclists.  We then headed north on Highway 550 toward Silverton and then Highway 110, over what is also called the “Million Dollar Highway” toward the little the town of Ouray — “The Switzerland of America.”  We allowed for plenty of time to ride this route as the winding roads go through mountains and we knew there would be stops for photos and time to enjoy the vistas, waterfalls, deserted mining towns.

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

The GPS displayed 10,708 feet when we crossed over the summit and started to descend into Silverton.  I’m not sure what the town is like in the winter with its 300+ inches of snow that falls each year. We stopped for fuel and a soda break then rolled onto the main part of the Million Dollar Highway – north from Silverton to Ouray.  I’ve heard a couple  different reasons about why it has its name. It is either because it cost a million dollars a mile to build, or because the fill they used to make up the road has traces of gold and silver contained within it. Whichever is true, it is still a great name for a road.  The road itself is a terrific ride, but there are some parts where you have to pay close attention with steep drop-offs and no guard rails. In other places the road hugs the side of a steep slope of a mountain and in others, it has great bends which are ideal for motorcycling.

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

About 20 miles from Ouray after going around a mountain switch back the weather changed quickly.  We could see dark clouds rolling up the mountain valley, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started to spit some moisture.  We pulled over and hunted for rain gear which somehow had relocated to a deeper part of the hard bags in the days of searing heat.  It was a good call, because in less than 15 mins there came lightening and a gully washer.  As we rolled through Ouray it was hailing BB sized hail and the road was literally flowing with a mud/water mix.  We could see blue sky and kept rolling through the weather.  By the time we arrive in Ridgeway it stopped.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

We finally arrived in Meeker and overnighted at the Elk Mountain Inn.  We ate a Mexican dinner at Ma Famiglia which was an extremely satisfying meal with great service.  We discussed riding to Sturgis since we were headed north and needed to start thinking about our return route.  The next morning coffee was on early and the hosts were very pleasant.  We wanted to clean the motorcycles after riding in the mud flow outside Ouray the previous day and they offered us a hose, buckets and cleaning soap.

On Wyoming Highway 70

On Wyoming Highway 70

Meeker to Torrington, WY – We were up early to clean the mud residue off the motorcycles.  Afterward we rolled north toward Craig on Highway 13/789.  Once we passed into Wyoming we headed east on Highway 70 where it passes over the Continental Divide and then descending onto the junction for Highway 230 north.  We picked up Highway 130 east and rode by Lake Marie and Mirror Lake while crossing through the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 - Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 – Medicine Bow National Forest.

In Centennial we stopped for fuel at the Trading Post and then continued east on Highway 130.  At Laramie we got on I-80 east and headed toward Cheyenne.  It was a quick trip to Cheyenne and then we headed north on I-25 and then at Exit 17 is where US Highway 85 (Torrington Road) branches off to the northeast.

We arrived in Torrington fairly late in the day and tried a couple of motels which were full of bikers before ending up at the Motel 6.   It was the only place with vacancy and that should have been a red flag.  It was being renovated or had closed and then sort of reopened, but didn’t know what it was going to be in final form?

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over...

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over…

All the signs were removed from the building and significant remodeling was stalled.  We were fortunate to have A/C and a bed/shower, but I can honestly say don’t stay at this place until they get it finished.  We ate dinner at Deacons Restaurant and the hearty steak meal helped offset the strange motel situation.

Torrington to Rapid City, SD – On this morning we got up early and traveled the 8+ miles for a photo op on the Nebraska state line.  We did a U-turn and headed back onto the route that is known as the “Traditional” way for riders to get from northern Colorado to Sturgis.

We started to notice a lot more motorcyclist as if the NO vacancy signs weren’t a clue the night before.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

We continued on Highway 85 north and headed to the town of Lusk.  Lusk was full of Bikers, and coincidently was having a big parade.  We had planned to get fuel there, there was a long wait at the gas station and one of the law enforcement officers who had traffic block mentioned that we should just head to the next town.

This stretch of road is heavily patrolled, but despite that we witnessed a number of bikers running near 90mph, though I don’t recommend it.  In fact, we came up on the first accident of the trip on this road.  It looked like an overloaded motorcycle dumped their load and skidded off into the ditch.  If anyone had been hurt they were already gone by the time we rolled past as the tow vehicle was picking up the motorcycle.

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

About halfway between Lusk and Newcastle is Mule Creek Junction with a nice rest area and it’s possible to head east on Highway 18 from there into Custer, SD which is what we did.

We rolled through Custer and past the Crazy Horse Mountain Monument and stopped in Rapid City.  We paid double the going rate for a room at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and spent the remainder of the day and evening enjoying the typical Sturgis activity.

Knuckle-8We were only in town for 24 hours, but managed to hit The Knuckle Saloon for refreshments, One-Eyed Jacks Saloon for dinner, and see plenty of billboards, souvenirs, belt buckles, t-shirts, music and people watching on Main Street well into the evening.

Rapid City to Billings, MT – The next morning was another early rise.  It was a beautiful sun-drenched morning.

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

There was a quick sausage biscuit (yeah, we eat well on the road!) at Burger King and it was on the road again.  It was going to be an “Interstate Day” – all the miles would be on the freeway.  We motored west on I-90 toward Sundance then Gillette and Sheridan.

As the miles clicked by I gazed out over the landscape, it was not hard to imagine the challenges faced by those who struggled to forge a living from this land 150 years ago. It says something about the human spirit that they even tried.  When you’re rolling along on the freeway you soon learn to really hate semi-trucks and RVs.

Buffalo Country

Buffalo Country

These behemoth’s create their own wind patterns and take no issue with trying to out run motorcycles cruising above the speed limit!

Much of this route is prairie with long stretches of straight road.  Just outside Hardin we rolled past the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument at the Highway 212 junction.  We’ve ridden Hwy 212 a couple of times when returning from Sturgis, but this time we needed to make up some miles.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Passing by Little Big Horn I remember seeing the 135th anniversary signs of the battle.  It was late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of “whites” into their sacred lands in the Black Hills.   They gathered in Montana with Sitting Bull to fight for their lands.  The following spring, two victories over the US Calvary emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876 – the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

A couple years ago I blogged about the Guidon, an artifact found/auctioned off from that battle.

It had been another hot day and we arrived in Billings at the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of town.  It was a new hotel and had all the amenities.  We headed to the pool and then I remember having dinner at a Subway shop up the road followed by some DQ ice cream.  There were a number of bikers returning from Sturgis who overnighted at the hotel and we made some new friends.

This is a multi-part blog post.  Part -1 HERE and Part – 3 HERE.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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4-Corners Route Map

4-Corners Route Map

It doesn’t get much better than a tour of America’s most famous roads aboard its most famous motorcycle.

To be clear,  this wasn’t the SCMA sanctioned ride to the four-corner cities in the U.S. (San Ysidro, CA; Blaine, WA; Madawaska, ME; and Key West, FL) in 21 days or less.  I’m talking about the 4-corners of Arizona/ Colorado/New Mexico/Utah which is a leisure trip in comparison.

Cruising Toward Boise

Cruising Toward Boise

I’m very late in posting a summary, but about 10-months ago, three of us set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-mile journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

My view is that any motorcycle is better than a car, and not for the biker type reasons, it’s because you engage with the environment and the people in a far more intimate way. When it rains, you get wet, when the temperature drops, you get cold, and if those sound like reasons to take a car, then you just don’t understand – feeling the air and the weather rather than viewing it through a windshield or soaking in the experience of the environment instead of merely looking at it truly is the only way to go.

Boise Street Celebration

Boise Street Celebration

On this road trip, Moab, the Million Dollar Highway and Beartooth Pass were my most memorable highlights.   The road trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to multiple days of 100+ searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through hail and torrential rain storms with “mud-flows” on Colorado’s Highway 110 where fishing gear seem appropriate!  Nothing we couldn’t handle and it all made for the adventure of touring by motorcycle.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

Boise To Spanish Fork, UT

The romance and history of the great American road trip is a powerful draw.  I’ve wanted to ride through Monument Valley since seeing an image in an American motorcycle magazine smuggled into an electronics amplifiers lecture in college: an abandoned gas stop, tumbleweed, a rusting Phillips fuel sign you could almost hear squeaking in the hot, dry breeze and, down the road, a post-war Ford tilted into a ditch, its sun-bleached side peppered with bullet holes.  Yeah, we all know the imagery; 20th century Americana, the open road, the songs, and the countless films – so, let’s jump into the actual ride:

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Departing Spanish Fork, UT

Portland to Boise –  I’ve blogged ad nauseam about riding from Portland to Boise on various trips to Sturgis and won’t bore you by repeating the details.  We departed early and it was about getting some miles under our tires with I-84 being the fastest route east.  We overnighted in Boise where the perpetual street scene celebration seems to always be running.  We grabbed some dinner at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant.

Cruising the CO. River

Cruising the Colorado River on Highway 128

Boise to Spanish Fork, UT –  We departed Boise fairly early and continued to roll on the freeway through semi-arid rolling hills.  We were not fully into the “tourist” mode until we stopped in Spanish Fork, UT outside Salt Lake City.  We did a quick stop at Timpango’s Harley-Davidson.  The 6-acre complex and building was the brainchild of Dave Tuomisto and was a great story.  It was a mega-dealer – almost a mini-museum – and part of Harley-Davidson’s growth strategy, but during the “Great Recession” fell on bad times and Joe Timmons purchased the dealer for pennies on the dollar.  It’s a unique complex and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.

Wide Open Skies

Highway 128 Heading Toward Moab

The most memorable item I recall from this part of the trip – I’m writing this post nearly a year later – was the incredible amount of road construction on I-15 in and around Salt Lake City.  It’s as if there was a mass-transit revolt by residents and the state decided to build enough lanes to accommodate traffic into the late 21st century.  There was no time for day dreaming as car’s cut us off and darted across multiple lanes.

At Arches National Park

At Arches National Park

Spanish Fork to Moab –  On this day the ride was all about mountains.  US-6 leads to Moab and Arches National Park and from the first mile we were climbing.  The grade was mild so the elevation stretched out for miles until we finally reached the summit at 7500 feet.  All the while peaks with short scrubby trees surrounded us.  US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price has the honor of being one of America’s most dangerous roads owning it to a mix of heavy trucks, RVs and cars traveling at freeway speeds through narrow canyons.  There were 519 fatal and serious accidents from 1996-2008.

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

Balancing Rock at Arches National Park

The descent from the summit was much quicker though it didn’t seem all that steep and we ended up on I-70 at a Papa Joes Gas-n-Go station where we fill up the fuel tanks.  We headed east on I-70.   Most people will take Highway-191 at the Crescent Junction interchange into Moab.  There are over 8500 cars that travel this road daily.  We decided to take a less-traveled route that adds only a few miles and you come into Moab from the back side on Highway 128.

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

Parade of Elephants at Arches National Park

This spectacular 44-mile scenic byway meanders along the Colorado River and the lack of vehicles was a bonus. About halfway you pass a viewpoint of the red rock spires of the Fisher Towers which is set against the peaks of the La Sal Mountains.  It was an impressive scenic ride with the red sandstone walls rising up around us as we watched the colors of the sunset.  It was a day of searing heat and we headed to the Best Western Plus Greenwell Inn pool to cool down.  We had dinner at the Moab Brewery and reviewed the “tourist” plans for the next day.

4-Corners National Monument

4-Corners National Monument

Moab to Cortez, CO (with stop at 4-Corners Monument) – We awoke early to get a jump on the desert heat and rolled out of town in the cool morning toward the River Canyon.  The plan was to ride the loop in Arches National Park and do some tourist sightseeing early then rumble toward 4-corners.  There have been good books written about Arches and this simple post will not do it justice.

4-Corners National Monument Plaque

4-Corners National Monument Commemorative Plaque

We rode most of the 36-mile round trip scenic drive.  We rolled through the petrified sand dunes between “Courthouse Towers” and “The Windows.”  We stopped and walked around a bit at “Balanced Rock” and again at Elephant Butte near the “Parade of Elephants.”   Unfortunately we didn’t have the time or were we dressed appropriately to walk the 1.5mile hike into “Delicate Arch.”  We took a lot of photos and then exited the park.

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

Departed 4-Corners Monument Heading to Cortez

We headed south on Highway 191 where the only sound was of the V-Twin rumbling off the canyon walls.  Horses nuzzled the rough cottonwoods by the riverbank and the red sandstone walls rose up around us again as we headed toward Monticello and Blanding.  I don’t exactly remember which route we took to Montezuma Creek – all roads looked similar – but we ended up in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and then connected to Highway 160 for the 4-corners monument.  We paid the fee to get into the park and walked around, did some shopping at the Indian vendor stands which wrap around the monument area.  It was cool to stand on the 4-corner disc and straddle the four states.

cortez-motelIt was getting late in the day and we really needed to find a town large enough to host a motel so we departed.  We headed north on Highway 160 and overnighted in Cortez, CO., at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suite.  It was another scorching day of heat so a quick dip in the pool was in order and then we headed to dinner to discuss the next day riding plans.

This is a multi-part post.  Part-2 continues HERE.

Photos taken by author.  Map courtesy of Apple.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Red Rocks

Red Rock Canyon In Route To Laughlin

Year-end stories are always interesting to me.

Publications around the world rate stories, detail online traffic numbers, select the best leaders and generally give readers a special year in review.

On the national stage here are a few of my more notables:

We had what I’d call the best supporting furniture award…that went to the empty chair that actor Clint Eastwood spoke to throughout his speech at the Republican National Convention.  We narrowly re-elected a president.  John Edwards and Roger Clemens, both escaped conviction.  There was the epic fall of Lance Armstrong.  There was the Korean pop singer, Psy and that Gangnam Style video which skyrocketed a catchy tune into YouTube superstardom.  We bought more than 48 million iPads, weathered a couple of hurricanes, and cheered for the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner who, broke the sound barrier from 24 miles up.

Baker City at HCMR

Baker City at HCMR

When I look back on the motorcycle rides there was:

LAUGHLIN RIVER RUN – in April the Road Glide was shipped to the Las Vegas desert.  Then it’s a short 100 mile jaunt through the desert to Laughlin, NV and it’s a great way to escape the Oregon monsoon rain to enjoy the heat of the canyons.  And being close to the Colorado River and between two mountain ranges in the Mojave Desert there are a lot of scenic rides with panoramic views to enjoy.  Not to mention the motorcycle rally itself.

HELLS CANYON MOTORCYCLE RALLY – in June, some riding buddies took off on 3-days of enjoying nature’s perfume – the sweet smell of rain showers on the cedar and pine forest – into the Cuprum-Sheep Rock country.  At times, the cold rain made us wish for a fishing lure and then there were other times the motorcycle tires were inches from the edge of a 1,000-foot drop-off while in the next instant the left-view mirror came pretty close to scraping a craggy rock wall on the grade coming up from Hells Canyon Reservoir into the mountains…  it’s always an exciting adventure in Baker City!  But hey, that rain is a “summer” adventure in Oregon.

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

On top of Bear Tooth Pass

FOUR-CORNERS MOTORCYCLE LOOP – in late August the posse set out for the mystical 4-corners.  It turned into a 4000-miles epic journey over a couple weeks that led us through Eastern Oregon, Southern Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back home.  Moab, the 4-corners and Bear Tooth Pass were the highlights.  It was amazing scenery and viewing it all from back-roads on a motorcycle made it all the more fun.  The trip was much more than just a motorcycle ride.  We were exposed to searing heat, dodged wildfires and rode through mud-flows so deep on Colorado’s Million Dollar Highway that we could have caught trout with the right fishing gear!  The gist of the ride was exploring Moab and 4-corners, but the searing summer heat kept us from really getting to know the area well, and it gave me lots of ideas for future trips.

STREET VIBRATIONS –  One of my favorite ways to end the Northwest riding year is this late September trip to Reno.  The drive is pretty quick and it always guarantee’s the heat of the valley inter-mixed with cool mountain meadows and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The crux of the ride is of course the rally and wide assortment of builders and vendor booths along with coming back with a to-do laundry list of possible winter projects for the motorcycle.  It’s not like we’re going to be loafing around on the couch this winter, right?!

Street Vibrations 2012

Street Vibrations 2012

That was my look back and it helps to motivate me to plan for 2013.  A couple of rides already blocked out on the calendar are the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary in Milwaukee and “Shark Week” in Utah.

In looking back on 2012, we also need to keep in our thoughts and prayers those who were met with tragedy this year, whether from storms or gunfire here at home, or on a battlefield on foreign soil.  May 2013 be safer, healthier and happier for all of us.

Photos taken by author.

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