July 2021 Thelma and Louise trip took us south to Oklahoma. Our little Louise had first trimester woes, so our trip was fast, furious, hot as hell, and still full of goodness.
Day 1 took us through Topeka for a quick lunch with Tyree’s aunt before we moved straight on to Pawhuska, OK to experience everything Pioneer Woman.
The Pioneer Woman show is filmed on her ranch at their guest lodge located just 15 miles outside of town; 11 of which were gravel, potholes and cattle guards.
I was totally jazzed to see the location and listen to the stories shared by their family friend. The wild horses were a total bonus.
After dinner at the Merc and a few cocktails (for me!) at the local bar, we made our way West to lay our head down in a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. The sunset ride was exquisite.
Oklahoma City served as our next destination to take in the Memorial and a few other sites. Humbling, educational, and 103 billion degrees.
Y’all. July Oklahoma heat hits DIFFERENT. And it’s not good.
After a quick lunch, cold water and lemonade to rehydrate, we hopped on the bikes and headed North to find ourselves a red dirt road.
Then on to a middle of absolutely nowhere bar off a gravel road, that also gifted us with a handful of sand pits to maneuver through. And the locals thought we were gonna bury our bikes….
Listen. Listen. Listen.
Never underestimate us.
If it takes you a beat to find the bar, you know it’s a good one. Always find the hidden gems. It’s a must.
After the bar, we made our way back through Pawhuska, because wouldn’t you know it, we found out Leo DiCaprio was filming a movie, and we completely missed seeing the set the day before. Never mind it was literally the SAME BLOCK we had dinner and drinks on. #observantpartyoftwo
Since we didn’t really have any more destinations for this trip, and Tyree needed to get back to Omaha for pregnancy life, we backtracked our way home with a pitstop to see the set. Wild!
And one “1 star” motel experience later, we found our way back to Omaha with a few days to spare. Ok… We’ve stayed in a number of 1 star accommodations on our journey’s. This one took the cake. After this little number, we’ve agreed to stop being such cheap asses and upgrade to 2 star motels for the next T&L adventures. 😉 Gotta keep it a little trashy but a little classy, ya know? Preferably no bed bugs. Nor critters. Maybe the mold could be cleaned up? Ya…
Certainly the most mild of adventures, but no less fun. And can I just give Tyree a little shout-out? It was 10 billion degrees out, she was in her first trimester and not feeling real great, couldn’t even quench her thirst with an ice cold beer (the WORST), and she still stuck it out with me on this trip.
That’s friendship. True friendship. I love our T&L adventures and all the little ones in-between.
2022 came in like a warm blanket of ongoing 2020 didn’t she? Warm because, hi… where’s the dang snow? And 2020, cuz also hi… our little pandemic friend.
Today, as I was cleaning out my iPhone photos preparing for a fresh new 13, I came across this screenshot I swiped off the Gram. While full of colorful words (sorry fam), the message is important. It was an early 2021 reminder to myself as I, along with many of you, were shaking our heads wondering what the heck just happened with 12 months of our lives. Minimal photos. Limited experiences. It was, and in some cases still is, taking a toll on our mental and physical well-being.
As I look back and share with you some joyful moments of 2021 as we all look ahead into 2022, I am inviting you to move ahead with the daily reminder to live. Experience. BREATHE. To take the photos. To make time for what is good in life. To soak it in and experience every experience for what it is, and enjoy everyone for who they are.
A look back at 2021.
Spring fishing and evening rides.
40th Birthday fun for Jess
Lake of the Ozarks with the girls.
Michigan, Oklahoma and Nashville
Hardy, Kane Brown & Iowa Football
Bonfires, Friends, Fam, and Cats
And forever chasing sunsets.
Cheers to living 2022, and embracing all that she gifts us. Wins, losses and everything in between.
And keep chasing those sunsets. They bring the promise of a new day.
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. 🙂
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!
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’s 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 visitThe 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. 😉
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.
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…
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.
During a pandemic. Through storms. And a breakdown.
‘Cause that’s how we do.
Kids, grab your beverage of choice. I’ve got some stories to tell!
Thursday, June 4th, Tyree and I took off on a South Dakota and Wyoming adventure. Coming out of a particularly chaotic season of our professional lives, we were ready for an escape from computers and responsibilities. As the miles between us and Omaha got longer, the weight on the shoulders became lighter.
I was living for it. Tunes on, throttle wide open, bug blasted windshield, perma grin, and a storm front looking all cool and refreshing on the horizon.
With only a few sprinkles felt and a welcomed temperature drop from the blazing 90 degree sun, we made our way towards Valentine, NE where the resident cat at the Trade Winds Motel would welcome us home for the night and the Peppermill and Lounge would serve us hot food and ice cold beer. The Peppermill had only recently started serving folks on-site so we were met with happy smiles and thankful servers.
Friday morning we set out for South Dakota by way of Highway 20 so we could drop in at the bottom of the Black Hills. We were going to get the most out of this day while we slowly made our way towards Sturgis.
First stop after crossing into South Dakota was lunch at Woolly’s Grill and Cellar in Hot Springs and then on into the Black Hills for some playtime with the buffalo.
Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, Needles Highway (SD Hwy 87)—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922. The road lies within the 71,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City, and is an impressive 14 mile stretch that includes sharp turns, narrow tunnels, granite spires and world class views.
After Needles we ran on fumes to Crazy Horse and then on over to Mt. Rushmore.
Fuel light on? It’s fiiiiinne.
And then onto Nemo Highway where we stopped at the Nemo Mercantile to enjoy a beer and chat with the local UTVers.
In Sturgis we stayed with Bob & Janet, owners of the coziest basement apartment, outfitted in furniture and doilies that reminded me of great grandma Leora. Bob and Janet should be airbnb’s token couple for advertising a “Weekend at Grandma’s“. Absolute gems.
And let’s all pay our respects to that long telephone cord, y’all. That’s what we call 1997 phone privacy… landline style.
After unloading our saddlebags, we made our way out to the Full Throttle Saloon. If you’ve been with me long enough you know FTS holds a very special place in my heart as it is the location Clint proposed in August 2010. Sadly the OG FTS, where all our memories were made, went up in flames, but the rebuild is better than ever.
By this point in the night we were starving and the temps were dropping so we made our way back into the Sturgis City limits where we stopped for a beer at the Knuckle Saloon and dinner at One Eyed Jacks.
Saturday morning promised overcast skies, a rainy forecast, and a chill in the air. We needed a breakfast of champions and Red’s Grill & Pub DELIVERED!
A few friendly weather warnings and well-wishes from the locals and we were off to Wyoming. Not even 30 minutes later the skies were BLUE, the sun was out and it was looking to be a rock solid day of play!
Shoot, we even found a lonely golf cart on the side of the road. You know we pulled over and called our buddy Cyndi from the seat of that bad boy. Motorcycle rallies of the past would have come haunting had we not paid respect to Cyndi’s devilish ways.
On down the road to Hulett, WY where the Ponderosa Bar served up ice cold RBV’s and an opportunity for self-entertainment as there was literally no one else out in that town. June 2020 Pandemic vibes!
We left our mark and bid farewell to that one-horse town and cruised on down the road.
As we neared Devils Tower we pulled off for a few photo opportunities. We weren’t planning on going closer as we figured it cost $ and would be loaded with tourists. We aren’t tourists, ya know… 😉
Once back on the bikes we made a split second and unplanned decision to turn into Devils Tower parking lot, and in that very moment Tyree’s back brake locked up and her bike stopped rolling.
Y’all. This wasn’t a coincidence. We had our guardian angels riding with us that day. Ours wear leather, you know. We also had our mama’s at home praying for our safe journey’s. There were extra hands in this intervention. Had we kept rolling, I would be telling a different story today.
So, what are two girls in the middle of Wyoming with limited resources to do? Facetime Bill, of course. Bill is the husband of our dearest friend Tracy and owner of Spaz Cycle. Bill – THANK YOU for taking the time out of your insanely busy day to help us two idiots out. You went above and beyond. Thanks, friend.
While Tyree was on the phone with Bill, I went on a walk through the neighboring campground where I made friends with two fellas who had all the tools we needed and the hearts to give us a hand. We were surrounded by the best humans. I wish we could have remembered to grab their names or social media channels to give them a special thanks.
With a locked brake caliper piston, the whole thing had to be removed. While they worked, I was on the phone with Deluxe Harley-Davidson in Sundance giving them the 411. Once Tyree’s brake caliper was back on, we made the 30 mile trek to Sundance. Those 30 miles consisted of Tyree making continual conscious reminders to avoid the brake pedal. What could happen?
A locked brake at 65mph on winding roads is what.
Pro Status: we pulled into Deluxe HD at 2:00 where we would become BFF’s with three of the best HD employees. I mean, we did spend 3.5 hours with them, so BFF status was EARNED.
They took MORE than great care of Tyree’s bike. They even went the extra mile and serviced some other components while we were there. Shoot, we even got a few cold beers out of the deal.
And maybe a few laughs. We were tired. Hungry. Our afternoon plans to ride Spearfish and hang out in Deadwood had vanished. We had to get our jokes in somehow… albeit childish jokes, but hey. You get what you get with us.
If there is something I have learned from Tyree over the years, it is to always make the best of the situations provided. Always something to be thankful for, even when shit hits the fan.
And on this particular day, we were surrounded by goodness of all forms.
5:30pm and we hit the road for a 30 mile cruise towards Spearfish Canyon. And, unbeknownst to us at the time, here is a lineup of events that happened in our favor between 5:15-6:15pm:
Last second clutch adjustment at the HD store as we were rolling out. 15 extra minutes.
Wrong turn in Spearfish led us away from the scenic byway. 10 minutes.
Decision to top off our tanks once back on track. 5 minutes.
Had any one of those events not happened, we would have found ourselves stranded on Spearfish Canyon Byway, no shelter, 55-60mph winds with 75mph wind gusts.
While fueling (#3) we scanned the radar and decided to hammer down to Sturgis to outrun the storm. Mother Nature would have very different plans as the wind and rain came in fast and furious while we prepared to merge onto the interstate. I’ve ridden in storms. We stood no chance in this one with nothing surrounding that stretch of interstate. The driver of the Wranger to my right motioned for me to take the open space in front of him while Tyree maneuvered around back. Squeezing our way across traffic we found quick shelter for our two-wheeled babes.
And there we sat. Helmets on and all.
45 minutes later and Mother Nature wasn’t giving up, so we grabbed some pizza and waited for a window of opportunity to hit the road. It finally came around 8pm, and with a stream of steady rain, we leathered up and headed out with white knuckles bracing for the lurking winds.
Shout-out to the Baymont by Wyndham front desk dude for letting us park our bikes under the awning by the front door and to the family of 6 eating at Pizza Ranch who were ready to give us a lift to Sturgis.
As I said… good humans were all around us.
Yo… props to Gr’pa Bob & Gr’ma Jan for the open garage door welcoming us home from the rain. The Real MVP’s!
Y’all still with me?
Let’s insert a commercial break. Go ahead. Refill that coffee cup.
Better yet, grab a beer. You deserve it if you’ve made it this far.
After all the fun roads were traveled and locations visited, we found ourselves at the south end of the Black Hills again and a full day ahead of us.
J: “Hey, T… what should we do now?”
J: “Sold. Should we get fuel first? I don’t remember a gas station for miiiilllesss last time I was out that way”.
T: “Nah, we good”.
J: “Let’s get to it then.”
34 miles along Hwy 36 to Hwy 40 and we found ourselves a barricade outside Red Shirt due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on Tribal Lands in South Dakota. After a very disjointed conversation over loud running motorcycles, mouth coverings and an urgent plea for fuel, the barricade patrol hesitantly let us pass through with the agreement we were headed straight to Whiteclay, our nearest option for fuel. My quick calculations told me we’d be rolling into Whiteclay with about 5-10 miles to spare. Golden.
Thanks, good people. We best be goin’ then!
And, off we went, with no other traffic. Just me and T.
We stopped “for sweatshirts” and to catch a glimpse of the outer edge of the Badlands. About 15 minutes had passed when a truck traveling from TX pulled up wanting to know if we were still on the reservation, to which we confirmed. Come to find out this couple had been warned at the SD/NE border that they’d be hauled off to jail if they stopped at any point on the reservation.
Back on the road and I wondered if we had somehow landed ourselves in Kansas. That storm cell had me thinking I was going to be visiting Oz.
That beaut was traveling North with a vengeance. We mirrored that urgency by hightailing it South towards Whiteclay with just enough fumes to re-fuel and cross into NE, leaving the storm behind us.
We didn’t have plans mapped out for our Sunday journey home, unless you consider flying by the seat of our pants as plans. Since we were near Hwy 20 we decided Trade Winds Motel in Valentine would make for a nice home again.
It should come as no surprise that Mother Nature found us again just West of Cody, NE. We ditched the road for a nice little awning while the storm rolled through. We were starving, and wouldn’t you know it the awning we were under was coverage to the front door of a closed for the day cafe. Come onnnnnnn…
We had leftover Taffy from Keystone and two shooters of liqour in our bags.
Candy and Booze.
Remember that bit about us finding all the good people on our trip? Well, we found more. As we were getting ready to move on, no phone service to check radar, we noticed a truck pulled off the road and inside a mother, daughter and son trio. Come to find out, they were headed the same direction we were, but a phone call from her husband relayed the message that 60mph winds and golf ball size hail was in her path.
Oh and that storm cell we rode by earlier? It produced a twister just North of Sturgis. Our new friends missed it by minutes. Fun!
So, we waited a while longer, said our farewells, gave them a 10 minute lead before we hopped on and rolled out. We had 42 miles left to go.
…And the sailing wasn’t smooth. I think you expected that by now. Just East of Cody, with 34 miles remaining, the sun set and the 50mph winds set in. At one point we were leaning so far into the wind that gravity would have won had the wind let up. That 34 mile stretch saw us through wind gusts that sent us sailing over the center line, shot nerves, stress levels through the effing roof, many prayers, moments of exhaustion that had to be squelched because the wind never let the f up, and random bursts of uncontrollable laughter thanks to afore mentioned shot nerves until we FINALLY saw the city lights of Valentine. It was 11pm, the town was shut down (pandemic probs) and with gas station chips, cheese and water in hand, we fell into our hotel room, straight up delirious with the biggest smiles on our faces and new memories stored away.
The nonsense we get ourselves into… wouldn’t have it any other way.
Get you a Thelma to your Louise. Get yourself a friend that you can do nothing and everything with and have the time of your lives. Shoot… get yourself 20 of them. I am surrounded by friends from all walks of life who fill my cup in so many ways.
And this girl? Well, she’s my Louise.
And I think I’ll keep her.
You can find our last adventures to the Ozark Mountains here. Backroads, nightfall and nonsense. Standard.