Riding Colorado | July 2020

Even in the middle of a pandemic, we found time to travel this summer. The beauty of motorcycles is you can avoid people. Most all of them if you really wanted to. Clint’s ideal vacation. ūüôā

This Colorado trip was likely the coldest and soggiest of all summer CO experiences. Sprinkle in a dose of riding anxiety that manifested itself in the form of an air bubble causing loss of back brakes down Guanella Pass, and a bought of heat exhaustion in KS that sent me from Level 1 Chill to Level 10 Drama… we had ourselves a real good time!

#memories

Joining me on this trip was Clint, Tyree and her brother/our friend Clint. Cole was unable to coordinate time off work, so on Tuesday the 14th the two Clint’s took off early for Ogallala, NE (cuz #teamnopeople).

And as for Tyree and I…

We rolled into Ogallala just shy of midnight and short a few storms where an ice cold beer and warm hotel room awaited us.

Wednesday’s route had us through Ogallala > Fort Collins for lunch at Crooked Stave Taproom > Estes Park for a few drinks > Winter Park. Colorado only had county mask mandates but was by far the strictest state I’d traveled to compared to SD & WY the month prior. Shoot, even Nebraska didn’t have a mask mandate yet. Rolling into Colorado gave us a new perspective of the COVID pandemic.

It was about 15 miles out of Black Hawk when a foreign feeling of unease crept over my body. Something didn’t feel right with my bike, but I couldn’t pinpoint it as there were no prominent red flags. I could just feel something off while rolling through the mountains and into curves, so I tailed back while the other three motored on ahead of me.

We fueled up in Black Hawk and hit the road. It was time to finish the days travels into Winter Park where our AirBnB awaited.

Thursday morning we hit up breakfast at the base of Winter Park, blatantly photobombed a few teenage girls taking selfies (somewhere out there is a photo of some adorable teens and T and I in our leathers posing all cute and shiz) before heading out to Keystone > Frisco.

Tyree had put together a list of bars reported to be some of the “best” in Colorado and based our riding adventures around hitting those. She‚Äôs genius.

Enter: COVID-19 pandemic.

Keystone was closed. A local recommended a place in Frisco. Also closed.

So, you may ask why didn’t we check bar closing before rolling? Because it’s Colorado.

As long as you’re riding, all is good baby! Those views!

From Frisco we headed out towards Leadville to visit The Legendary Silver Dollar Saloon where we were met with rain and hail. Also found out real quick how crappy my windshield was. Oncoming headlights turned my windshield into a disco ball strobe light. Solution: hop my ass up on the back of my seat to look over windshield. Practical!

A few beverages and a chance to warm up before getting back out in the rain, we made our way to Highline Cafe & Saloon, literally in the middle of no-where Colorado. Wind, rain and some spooky storm clouds had me questioning our survival rate, but we left all that behind in our rearview mirror. Those ice cold Busch Lights and sliver of sunlight at Highline were welcomed with open arms.

What you see in the photo above is all that is in Harstel, CO. A bar & grill (former Mercantile) a banned Hot Springs and deserted train station, and a mini-general store. The locals were welcoming, the beer cold, the bar warm. Perf.

From Harstel we started our journey back “home” by heading towards Georgetown through Guanella Pass.

Guanella is full of beauty and fun with the picturesque tree and mountainous landscape and occasional hairpin turns. It’s a great byway to explore and I highly encourage riding it at least a few times. Make it a priority.

Mother Nature spent this time reminding us that Colorado is unpredictable and with 40 degree temperature readings, a bit of sleet mixed with the rain at the top, we had ourselves an adventure on the descent to Georgetown.

And the unnatural riding anxiety I was feeling manifested itself into loss of back brakes to make the adventure even more exciting! You slow your roll when your pedal goes all the way to the floorboard with no reaction. Good stuff. It was in this moment I wish we had a way to communicate with each other because as they rolled on effortlessly down the mountain, I just held up traffic and enjoyed a nice and controlled cruise down and around the turns. The trio eventually figured out I was MIA so waited for me on a few turns, but I am sure they were thinking what a giant pansy ass I was being.

Once in Georgetown I told the crew why I was trailing so far behind, but by that point my back brakes were working again. Clint just figured I was riding my back brake and it got too hot, but I swore I wasn’t any more than anyone else. Clutch in, downshift is my first method to deaccelerate when approaching continual turns and hairpins, but I promised I’d pay attention to my riding style out of Georgetown. With that, a few beers were earned at Guanella Pass Brewery to shake off that unplanned adventure.

Beers down the hatch and the sun slipping behind the mountains, we bid Georgetown farewell and finished our journey back to Winter Park for dinner at Deno’s Mountain Bistro.

The journey home I watched my braking patterns compared to the rest of the crew and confirmed my theory that I was in fact using my brake just as much or less then the majority, and in that ride home found my back brakes to quit working again. Verdict after further inspection? Air bubble in the brake line. The mechanically inclined husband fixed that issue promptly.

Thursday… you were memorable!

Friday morning was a slow start as Tyree and I were still working remotely while on vacation with the goal of squeezing in around 4 hours each day. This pet rock made me feel like I was right at home.

The boys stayed back to fish all day, so Tyree and I took off on our own adventure with our first stop at Buffalo Rose in Golden.

We had the sweetest waitress, the vibe of the restaurant was right up our alley, and the unique cocktails were delicious. With a pitstop at Avalanche Harley-Davidson to look for a part, we hit the road again towards Evergreen, CO where we’d enjoy a few beverages and our go-to vacation snack of Cinnamon Bears on the upper deck of the Bait Shack Tavern.

Tyree had a case of the dizzies brought on by the altitude so she got herself one of those oxygen cans and on we went. Due to the timing of the day we hit some pretty significant traffic getting out of Evergreen and wouldn’t you know it… storm clouds started rolling in. We found ourselves one of the last gas stations before getting back into the mountains and made sure to document our first and last photo wearing a tank top for proof that we actually did get out of full leathers in the dead of July.

Colorado, man. She’s trippy.

Back towards Georgetown we voted on another go at Guanella Pass Byway. We climbed in altitude while the temps and rain came back down.

Even though the ground made for a bit more caution on the way down, I far more enjoyed the descent knowing I had full use of all my brakes should I need. ūüėČ

Georgetown for fuel and we were off back towards WinterPark to meet the boys for dinner and a few nightcaps at The Pub.

Let me tell ya… Highway 40 towards Winter Park is seriously breathtaking. Four lane, but with curves and hairpins tucked in like you’d find normally off the beaten path. 10/10 recommend.

Friday’s loop-at-a-glance:

Saturday we checked out of our perfect little AirBnB and pointed our headlights southeast towards Guanella Pass to Pine.

Nestled off the beaten path and 7,050 feet up in the foothills of Denver, Buck Snort Saloon is a perfect hidden gem I’d highly recommend journeying to. As their website says, they provide real mountain charm, and I couldn’t agree more.

After a cold brew, we made our way further southeast to roll through the Garden of the Gods and into Manitou Springs where the crowds were thick and traffic annoying, so we high-tailed it East to Rocky Mountain Brewery where we thoroughly enjoyed a craft beer and some B’z BBQ. This is another beer joint I’d definitely recommend adding to your list of places to hit up when in CO.

A bit of a clutch issue with Sejkora’s bike and a quick bypass to an auto shop, we got him all fixed up and hit the blazing 97+ degree pavement east towards Kansas.

It was on this 212 mile stretch where I got overheated + dehydrated causing a moment where I wasn’t convinced I wasn’t going to black out. Some much needed Gatorade, water, anti-nausea meds and an hour break did the trick. While that moment was a bit dramatic and prob a tiddddd biiiittttt annoying for my riding partners … it was also a bit scary to experience.

We’ll just chalk this trip up to a series of weird events for this girl. Again…

#memories

Colby, KS after night fall and one open diner later, we bid each other farewell as we’d split ways in the morning while Tyree went with her brother to Burchard, and Clint and I North and East to Omaha.

Colorado 2020. You were memorable.

Let’s do it again!

BIG thanks to Tyree for planning out all the routes. She’s a rock star.

Side note: one of the photos I took from this trip landed the cover of Thunder Roads magazine. Thanks, Vernon! Much appreciated.

Salted Pretzel Cowboy Cookies

Pretzels, m&m’s, oatmeal, cinnamon and coconut is a combination I was happy to dive face first in. Thanks to Half Baked Harvest’s recipe as the baseline, with a few twists of my own, these little nuggets of love hit the sweet and salty spot.

Other then my pretzel presentation that is no-where near Tieghan’s masterpiece, I’d say these turned out quite perfect.

Enjoy!

Salted Pretzel Cowboy Cookies

  • 2¬†sticks salted butter, softened
  • 3/4¬†c.¬†brown sugar
  • 1/4¬†c.¬†granulated sugar
  • 2¬†eggs, room temp.
  • 1¬†Tbsp.¬†vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4¬†cups¬†+ 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1¬†tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2¬†tsp.¬†ground cinnamon¬†(optional)
  • 1/2¬†tsp.¬†kosher salt
  • 1 1/2¬†cups¬†old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2¬†cups¬†shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2¬†cups chocolate chips
  • 1¬†cup¬†m&m’s (can just add more chocolate chips if you desire)
  • 1¬†cup¬†pretzels, crushed

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs then add the vanilla, beating until creamy. Add the flour, cinnamon (if using), baking soda, and salt. Fold in the oats, coconut, chocolate chips, and m&m’s.
  3. Use a cookie scoop, or roll the dough into rounded 2 tablespoon size balls and place 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Push a few crushed pretzel pieces into each dough ball then slightly flatten the dough ball down with the palm of your hand.
  4. Transfer to the oven and bake for 9 minutes. (Note: the OG recipe has you bake the cookies for 5 minutes, remove from oven, tap pan on counter to flatten down, return to oven to bake an additional 4 minutes).
  5. Eat warm (definitely highly recommended) or let cool and store in an airtight container. 

Cheers!

Welcoming the New Gym Goers

This time of year brings a flurry of activity to the gym. In the middle of that flurry are the newbies, the returning and the steadfast constants.

January brings a natural surge of motivation to feel good, look good and get back into healthy habits. Naturally, many turn to the gym. And many of those folks are either brand new to the scene, or returning after a long hiatus.

For the population of folks who fall into the “steadfast constant” category, be mindful of those around you. Be welcoming, offer assistance, acknowledge with a smile or a nod when you make that dreadful eye contact during a rep. Because, while we may find the gym to be a comfortable environment, there may be some folks who are terrified, feel out of place, but desperately want and need the endorphins and camaraderie the gym can provide.

If you belong to a group exercise class or strength and conditioning gym that provides classes in cohorts, welcome them into your circle. Offer to partner. Provide them a tip on what equipment to pick and suggested weight range.

If you see someone with a perplexed look while standing next at a piece of equipment, stop and say “That machine can be tricky… it helps me if I do (insert XYZ)”. Even though the equipment may be second nature to you, offering up your expertise by buffering it with a comment that brings all parties to equal ground could be the one comment that releases the nervous tension and keeps that new member from throwing in the towel. Getting to the gym could have been their biggest win of their day. Help make them feel comfortable enough to return.

It’s been two years since I offered a steady schedule of multiple group exercise classes. Two years and I still talk to the majority of those individuals. I miss them terribly and often miss the hustle and bustle of teaching a full load of classes, but those memories I cherish and will keep with me forever.

When thinking about your gym and the community within you will also most likely see a family. Open your arms to the new guys.

Be that person that keeps them coming.

Fail Forward

You know those moments when you just feel like you don’t have it together? A failed expectation turns into another and before you know it you find yourself in a spiral of self-doubt and self-criticism?

Reflecting back on the last 12 months I see professional wins, areas of growth, and opportunities for improvement. I think we all can. Going into 2020, many of us wrote goals for our institution, departments, and for ourselves. Then March 2020 hit us like a freight train, and we were forced to pivot in monumental ways that the majority of us had never been trained for. Each individual, regardless of profession and career, was challenged.

Pandemic challenges aside, we all need to have reality checks with ourselves from time to time. A moment to say,

“Hey, girl. You’ve got this”

It’s easy to get caught up in a glass half empty state. Like the times when you feel you’re losing more than winning? Losing a little control and the ability to succeed? When in reality, what you’ve actually lost is the ability to see the situation from a different lens.

I’ve fallen in that trap several times this last year. I found a note in my phone from January 2020 reminding me that I am capable. I had lost focus of the professional wins and the supporting team surrounding me. I had allowed myself to get lost in the self-imposed losses and the notion that I had to prove myself at every moment, when in reality, I really only had myself to prove.

It’s natural to fall in a trap of uncertainly and question. And it’s imperative that we all give ourselves a moment of pause for reflection and a reality check.

Beautiful girl, you don’t need to prove anything or anyone. Do your job and do it to the best of your ability. And the things that don’t go as you wanted or planned? Well then, fail forward. You’ve got this.

J. Pirtle, January 2020

And you, dear reader? You’ve also got this.

Lean into the people you trust. Let go of the idea that you need to have control and a hand in everything. It’s not possible. There are too many moving pieces. Handle people, projects, and situations with grace, a smile and an inquisitive mind.

Actions speak louder than words. That trying to “prove your worth” thing isn’t becoming of you. The relationships built, the opportunities provided, and the product of the work speak loudest.

Fail Forward.

Find Your Place.

Find Your People.

Bring Them With.