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.

Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska: Oh My!

Thanks to a little winter planning; Tyree, Cole, Clint and I made our way to the Colorado Rockies to spend our 4th of July week.  And what a trip it was!

 

Tuesday, July 3rd: Destination Ogallala, NE.

We chose to split up our journey to the mountains and landed on Ogallala, NE as destination #1.  The group left in waves due to varying schedules with Clint rolling out at noon, Cole shortly before 4 and Tyree and I shortly thereafter.  Hot as hell (the trend for my long distance rides this summer have been accompanied by 97 degree + weather) but an easy ride, Tyree and I made our way into town right around 9pm.  Hungry and thirsty we met the boys at the Front Street Saloon and Restaurant.

 

This destination continues to wow crowds with their stage shows, shoot-outs and old western charm.  Definitely a stop worth taking, but be sure to check their schedules of events so you can see the action. Our waiter, Josh, was a charmer.

Around 9:30 we headed towards our campground where Clint had already set up our tents.¬† At this point, we had a solid view of the¬†incredible lightning show off to the west.¬† The radar told us we’d miss the rain, but as we arrived back to camp, we all made the collective decision to throw on our rain tarps, just in case Mother Nature decided to play games.¬† And games she played.¬† Just as we were finishing up tying down the rain gear, the wind showed up, the rain came in and shelter we sought.¬†¬† There were a few moments where I questioned not only our bikes abilities to stand up to the wind but also our tents ability to bounce back, as I stood in the corner, getting wet and holding the tent from collapsing inward.

Meanwhile, Clint:

 

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018: Destination Georgetown, CO

The ride into Colorado was absolutely beautiful. We had a break in heat and the moment we rolled into the mountains we were met with a slight rain shower, but cleared up relatively quickly¬†so we were able to take in¬†the pristine views and breathe in that mountain air as we made our way to Georgetown, CO.¬† Once in Georgtown, we made our way up the mountain a good 30 minutes¬†to our camp ground.¬† Guys, I didn’t take many photos of our camping location, and¬†for that I am kicking myself.¬† We had a running stream right next to our tents¬†that certainly provided the perfect background for a deep slumber.

Once camp was up, we headed back down to Georgetown to take in the 4th of July celebrations and grab a bite to eat before heading out to Mount Evans. Mount Evans is the highest paved road in North America and is typically only open to vehicles from Memorial Day to Labor Day due to the snow.

The roads towards the top begin to change into a steady stream of switchbacks and narrow passageways which requires all traffic to play nicely and be on the lookout for one another.¬† And once at the top… the views.¬† Guys.¬† The views!

Cole and Tyree are not phased by heights.  Not at all.  Me on the other hand made sure to have full body contact to the rocks, at all times.  Oy.  Even just looking at these photos makes my knees weak.

Photos are pretty deceptive.  It appears the snow in the lower left hand corner is a hop, skip and jump away.   It most certainly was not.  That would be a definite plummet to eternity.

After playing on the rocks, we made our way back down to “safe grounds” to enjoy the sights and mountain wildlife.

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As we were wrapping up and taking a few last photos, Tyree called in Cole for a quick selfie.  Knowing how much Cole ADORES selfies, I took the opportunity to poke fun of him by taking a photo of their selfie.

¬†Unbeknownst to any of us, I’d get the opportunity to capture a life-changing moment…

 

 

She said Yes!

Let me give you a little background.¬†¬† Clint, being Clint, has titled every single trip or adventure¬†that Tyree and Cole have taken these last two years as their “engagement trip”.¬†¬† A constant banter that he maintained religiously.¬†¬† For the Colorado trip, Cole was uncertain if he would be able to attend due to the rigorous school work expectations he was (and still is)¬†under.¬† It was literally 24 hours before we departed¬†that he felt confident enough that he could take a few days away from his studies and join us on our trip.¬† It was also in that 24 hour time frame that he¬†came into official¬†possession of¬†the custom (and insanely beautiful) ring he had designed for Tyree.

And so finally to Clint’s satisfaction,

Engagement Trip: 2018

is now a real thing.

 

Back down the mountain we carefully went and onto Black Hawk, Colorado for dinner and fireworks to close out our late evening.   I will say, caravanning back up the Georgetown mountain to our campsite was a treat.  Tyree and I enjoy getting ourselves into questionable nighttime predicaments, apparently.

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

FREEZING.  Tent camping, in the mountains, at a high elevation equals two things: You are going to get rained on and you are going to be cold.

The original plans for our vacation had us riding several mountain passes for the entirety of Thursday, resuming our camping in Georgetown and Friday a ride through the mountains down to Colorado Springs to hike Manitou Incline (for Tyree and I).  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had better ideas and the forecast showed two solid days of raining.

Riding in the mountains is one thing.¬† Adding in rain is another, and it isn’t a favorable one.¬† So, we altered our plans, packed up camp and headed towards the Rocky Mountain National Forest, by way of Grand Lake.

 

Do me a favor and pay the $25 fee (each vehicle) to ride through the National Park and up the mountain.¬† Breathtaking.¬† Literally… I got a little lightheaded after a hairpin.¬† Can we call that experience a Rocky Mountain high?¬† Woah.¬† There were some prominent internal reminders to breathe deeply and often from there on out.

Riding up a mountain provides you with all of the weather elements.  T-shirts at the base, sweatshirts mid-way, leather jackets at the top.

Riding above the tree line where trees can no longer survive was quite the experience.¬† We didn’t stop for much once on the descent because it was just too breathtaking to want to stop but traffic was also thick and trying to find a stopping point for all three motorcycles and one truck was next to impossible.¬† Plan several hours to make your way up and back down the mountain.

Next stop: Estes Park for some Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ where we met friends Dustin and Corrine for lunch¬† before making our way towards Fort Collins by way of some incredible mountain base passageways, courtesy of Dustin’s leading.

Photo courtesy: Cole

We spent the rest of the afternoon taste-testing beer at a local brewery before closing out the evening at Thunder Mountain Harley Davidson bike night.

 

Friday, July 5th, 2018

Cole left for Omaha around 4am and so around 8am, Clint, Tyree and I said our good-byes to Dustin and Corinne (thanks guys¬†for hosting us stinky bikers) and headed the 65 miles to Laramie, Wyoming for breakfast at the cutest townie caf√©: J’s Prairie Rose Caf√©.¬†¬† We split a monster cinnamon roll, because you can’t NOT order a cinnamon roll at a mom & pop caf√©, filled the rest of our bellies with traditional breakfast staples before continuing our¬†SE Wyoming¬†exploration to¬†Cheyenne, Wyoming.¬†¬†Once there we rode through the town to say we had officially explored what it had to offer before landing our bellies at a bar for a lunchtime beer.

And then on we went into Nebraska towards¬†the historic¬†western migration landmark: Chimney Rock.¬† We entered the¬†visitor’s¬†center¬†and watched the 15 minute historical video detailing the importance of the landmark and were able to explore the walking exhibit of many artifacts and photos further detailing the events and way of life for pioneer travelers.¬† It was educational and quite interesting.¬† A must if you find yourself on¬†the western end¬†of Nebraska.

And then it was North East to Alliance, Nebraska for the famed Carhenge exhibit.   I laughed loudly after reading the brief plaque on how Carhenge came to be.  It sounds like another Pirtle family gathering where a lot of beer is drank and bad decisions made.

Clint couldn’t help but take a moment to mock Cole.¬† Anything for a laugh.

I said maybe.

Dinner at a local Mexican restaurant before making our way to the Nebraska National Forest where we set up our tents, drank some beers and reminisced about the amazing things we had experienced over the last few days.

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Saturday, July 7th, 2018

With a beautiful sunrise leading our way, we headed out for 90+ miles to another small town community for a warm café style brunch before embarking on the remaining 4 hour journey back to Omaha by way of Nebraska windy roads and rolling hills.  Tyree made it a point to take us on the most scenic route from Central Nebraska to home and she did great.  We were in absolutely no hurry to end this vacation.

We changed our original plans significantly¬†from what we had set out for, but we had an incredible time and honestly wouldn’t have changed a thing!¬† It was perfect the way it was.¬† And we absolutely CANNOT wait to go back next year over the 4th of July. This time we will be spending an entire week exploring the mountains and my heart could absolutely explode at the thought.¬† But for now, I will settle on the skiing trip I just booked us for February.

Until then, Colorado. ‚̧

Cheers!

 

 

General Overview:

Colorado Dreaming

In less than 24 hours our family will be heading out for our 5th Annual ski adventure to Copper Mountain!

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This years adventure will be minus the two patriarchs of the family due to priorities at home. ¬†Can you all please do me a favor and keep your thoughts and prayers with Gr’pa Drake, my mother-in-laws father, as he faces declining health. ¬†Gaylen and Debbie have chosen to stay back this year to be with her parents and let us kids continue on with the skiing adventure. ¬†We have promised a TON of photos, GoPro videos and memories made so that we make it feel like they are right there with us.

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Each year brings new adventures, more wipe-outs, daring jumps and good quality family time.   We are always so thankful and appreciative of this trip.

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From family dinners and card games, to pool challenges, trips down Kokomo, terrifying journeys up the lifts (It is no wonder I keep it together when the lift stops mid-way and starts swinging), beers on the mountain, to snow ball fights while we wait for shuttles and everything in between.  This trip ranks high amongst the favorites each year.

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Cheers!