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 café: J’s Prairie Rose Café.   We split a monster cinnamon roll, because you can’t NOT order a cinnamon roll at a mom & pop café, 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:

Thelma and Louise Take On The Ozark Mountains

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Every summer for the last 9 years, Tyree and I are sure to take a few day-trips on our two-wheeled beauties.  Sometimes we rolled out with an agenda in mind, most times not.  Over the years they progressed into the Thelma & Louise adventures, matching shirts and all.  On numerous occasions we had talked about taking off on a multi-day adventure, but summers always filled quickly, never leaving any opportunities.  Finally, during the late 2017 winter months, we penciled in two adventures into our summer ’18 calendars that were non-negotiable: Colorado over July 4th with our boys (more about that later) and a T&L only adventure to the Ozark Mountains during the 3rd weekend of July.

And so, on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 we put our kickstands up for an adventure we won’t soon forget.

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1st Official Destination: Warsaw, MO for a late lunch and an ice-cold beverage.  We happened upon Dam Restaurant, adjacent to a swinging bridge and decided that was our place to stop.

As we chatted with the regulars and enjoyed our meal and first beer of the day, they kept track of a storm cell that was building just northwest of Warsaw.  A lazy, no-rush afternoon, turned into an afternoon with a slight sense of urgency attached to it due to the oncoming storms carrying 70+mph winds.  The locals hurried us out the door (truly…  they nearly forgot to tab us out before we asked) and with well-wishes being shout-out behind us, we headed south, just barely 20 minutes ahead of the storm cell.  To the folks at Dam Restaurant, we appreciated your hospitality and desire to keep us safe. 

People are good.  

There was only one time where we thought we might not beat the storm due to a brief jaunt west of Springfield to avoid the backlog of traffic heading south.

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But, we made it in to Branson safe and sound, left our bikes at the hotel and headed out for BBQ and beers at Gettin’ Basted where we waited out the storm before leaving our mark on the Branson strip.

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Friday, July 20th | Weather forecast: 115 degree heat index.

7:30am: Breakfast at Belgian Waffle and Pancake House, where the staff are absolute dolls.

“You girls are hot!  Like, not hot/hot, but hot/hot!” 

After a few conversations with our waitress we found out that she and another employee are referred to as Thelma & Louise.  Of course, we had to have our photos taken with the local T&L before we departed for our FULL day on two-wheels.

Thanks, Belgian Waffle House for a WONDERFUL breakfast and conversations.

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First leg: Branson to Peel, Arkansas so we could take the ferry!

If you are in the area, this route is a must out of Branson. Rolling hills, incredible views and curvy roads the entire 44 miles.  And as always when traveling into mountainous areas, plan for almost double the time as a straight path may take you.  Lot’s of gear shifting (and FUN!)

As we waited for the ferry, we struck up a conversation with a guy who just happened to hail from Plattsmouth, NE, only having just recently moved to Arkansas.  Small world!

After a brief wait, we boarded the ferry and off we went across the lake to begin our afternoon, and very dark evening, in Arkansas!

 

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Thanks to the recommendation of our new buddy from the ferry ride, we pointed our headlights towards Cliff House Inn in Jasper, AR, which overlooks the “Grand Canyon of Arkansas”.   The stellar views, and what appeared to be a breeding ground for giant butterfly’s and hummingbirds, this stop certainly didn’t disappoint.

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A quick bite to eat and an iced tea (hello dry counties in over 90% of the State) we headed out.  By this point in the afternoon it was well over 100 degrees.  We were one of FEW outside, which provided us the opportunity to own the roads.

Our route took us straight south on 21 to the D&J Country Store where we sought out water and air-conditioning for a few minutes.  The hotter-than-satan’s-lair weather conditions, while straddling a boiling hot motor that is working double time thanks to the terrain… well…. you get the idea of what we looked like at this point.   Thanks to the cashier we received the recommendation to head back into the national forest to Country Road 4400 and take a left.  Literally saw ONE car in the hour we were in this part of the forest.  It was perfect.

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Once we were satisfied with our County Road playground, we headed on West to find a major road and happened upon the bottom end of the Pigs Trail.

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Typically this part of the Pigs Trail is JAM PACKED with tourists and locals.  This day?  Crickets, man.  My phone tells me this photo was taken at 4:54pm and it was well into the 115’s for the heat index.

Tyree missed riding the Pigs Trail byway the last time we were in Arkansas, so we for sure wanted to hit it this time around, but to be honest: it wasn’t that thrilling after the day of switchbacks we had explored already, all thanks to taking the roads less traveled.  Ah-may-zing. 

Fun (?) side note: lower left side of my windshield you can see the remnants of something that most likely didn’t make it out alive…

It was at this point in the day that we were becoming cognizant of the time and sun placement and knew we needed to be making our way out of the national forest and back towards Branson.  So, we left with the destination of Eureka Springs in mind.  Surely we could get there, eat dinner and take a semi-scenic way back into Branson?!

Surely…

A wrong turn (but gorgeous byway) took us 30 miles out of our way but we took it as a challenge and headed to Eureka Springs anyway.  We NEEDED A BEER and a BURGER something fierce by this point and so around 7:30pm, we rolled into the Cat House Lounge, a favorite amongst bikers.

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The beer was welcome and the belly laughs abundant, which was most likely due to a combination of part heat exhaustion and said beer.  We mapped out a perfect little route back into Branson, via NW Arkansas and Branson West to get us back to our hotel … And then we bounced.

For the mom’s reading this, you may want to skip ahead to after the map photo.  We know that even though we are both 37 years old, you’ll want to scold us after this… 

MapQuest had a mind of it’s own and we found ourselves deep into the Ozark Mountain and forest terrain welllllll after sundown.  Do I dare mention there were no stars due to a slight overcast and threat of rain? It was black.  Sheer black.  A 60-75 minute ride ended up being about 2.5 hours of:

  • white knuckles
  • outward laughs from the nerves and the stupidity
  • three one lane bridges that we prayed were not actually one plank bridges (it’s a thing and there are a few down there)
  • a few tighter than expected curves because where we were, road signs weren’t a thing,
  • thigh squeezing/butt-clenching
  • a lot of down shifting
  • forced relaxation to navigate curves fluidly
  • a few stops to say “you good?”
  • quick eye glances towards the ditches for wild animals
  • quick glances back to what you could see of the road due to said curves with no warning road signs
  • internal thoughts of what the news channels would say about us if we really did go off a cliff… with our Thelma and Louise shirts on…
  • a few morbid chuckles about that, because come on.  That’s actually kinda funny.
  • deep breaths and verbal reminders to take it all in and enjoy the journey, regardless of the fact that we couldn’t see a damn thing
  • out-loud verbal affirmations of “Girl, this is AWESOME” to “Girl, you are STUPID” and back.

…and when we finally saw the lights of Branson and navigated our way confidently towards “home” we breathed a sigh of relief, relaxed our clenched butts, laughed at ourselves, thanked the man upstairs for the guiding hand, praised our common sense of taking it easy and laughing through the journey and recapped what an incredible experience that actually was.

I only hope that someday we can retrace our steps and actually experience those incredible less-than-traveled roads again, but in the daylight, preferably.  I can only imagine the absolute beauty those bridges and cliffs held.

Maps do not provide justice for the type of curves and elevation changes you can expect on this route.  Top notch! 

Uh, especially between Eureka Springs and Branson. 🙂 

Saturday, July 21st | Still Hot As Hell

We didn’t have any set plans for Saturday other then slowly making our way towards Nebraska.  We had a few points of interest and an idea of where we were going to end our evening, but didn’t set it in stone.  And so after a 50’s inspired diner breakfast, we set out to play in the Missouri National forests.  We did several pass-through’s and loops, a few backtracks, and even found ourselves in a one-lane valley where a local farmer coming out of his farm ground gave us a friendly head nod as he rolled on by at a leisurely 15 mph.

Thanks, buddy, for letting us take over your road for a short period of time.

After we played all morning on those incredible roads, we landed ourselves in Ozark, MO around 2:00pm for a Bloody Mary and a few beers at Back Home Brewing.  I mean, it was our vacation and we just spent the last two days in mostly dry counties.  We were due a few. 🙂

And then realized we had literally made ZERO headway towards home.  Like… at all.  HA!

And so we made the executive decision to hit the ever boring Highway 13 for 136 miles to Warrensburg, MO for a brief beer stop on Pine Street (apparently the stomping rounds for all Central Missouri State University kids) before heading on to Weston, MO.

Side note: make sure you take all the back roads North of Warrensburg towards Excelsior Springs (Highway 10 to 92)and then into Weston, MO if traveling that way.  Those roads were insanely gorgeous.  Had no idea there was such beauty in that part of Missouri.  NONE!

Weston, MO is a community pulled straight out of a Christmas Hallmark Movie.  It is so quaint and full of charm with it’s little shops, restaurants, wineries (Pirtle Winery is housed here) and bars.  I cannot wait to go back and spend an entire day there.  Seriously, folks.  Explore it online (here) and then go pay it an actual visit.

We had dinner at the Tin Kitchen, a southern smokehouse, walked up and down the main drag to do a little window shopping before landing into O’Malley’s Pub to end our night.  O’Malley’s is a series of 3 vaulted limestone cellars, with the main bar located in the lowest level.  They had an Irish band playing on Saturday evening and we seriously could have stayed all night listening to and enjoying the show.  Such a cool bar and community!

But, we still had a 30 minute ride ahead of us to Atchison, Kansas where we had last second booked a hotel for the night, so back on the bikes around 10:30pm for the last part of our journey.

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Bright and early we woke and set out for breakfast at a café about 60 miles northwest-ish.  Upon arrival it appeared the whole town was closed up and dried out, so a quick call to Tyree’s mom:

“Whatcha doing?  Any chance you want to make us breakfast?”.

And so on we went another 60 miles, with a quick stop to Tyree’s grandpa for a quick good morning hug and on down the road to her parents house where we enjoyed a warm and made with love breakfast with her family.  A walk down memory lane for Tyree as she gave me a tour of the neighboring communities, her high school and finally a stop at Peru State College where she completed her undergrad.  The town is literally a college, a small grocery store and a bar/grill.  So, naturally, we stopped to enjoy one last vacation beer before taking on the last leg of our journey home.

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And so the Thelma and Louise multi-day adventure concluded and with a happy heart and giant smiles on our faces as we split ways at the highway 32 interchange.

Thanks, Tyree, for an epic adventure.  Lot’s of memories were made down in those trees.  Happy to have you by my side for so many fun events.

Cheers to many more!

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A note of acknowledgement to the victims, survivors, families and workers of the Duck Boat accident in Branson on the evening of July 19th.   The storm that we outran, unfortunately, did not dissolve before hitting the tourist town of Branson.  Our thoughts and prayers were with you upon hearing the news of such a tragedy, so close in proximity to where we were.  May you find peace and understanding in the days to come.

Viva Las Vegas- Part One

It only took me 33 years, but Vegas is finally checked off my Bucket List.  Oh what fun we had in the 48 hours that we were there.

Friday the 7th, Clint and I boarded a plane at 6AM for our connecting flight in Denver. We don’t look too shabby for that hour, eh?

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Omaha is apparently super lame in the direct flight department.  Once we hit our layover in Denver we headed straight to the bar.

It’s Vegas weekend!  Why wouldn’t we get started right away with Bloody Mary’s and Beer?!

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A few cocktails later and we were on a plane to VEGAS!

Our weekend accommodations were at The Flamingo.  This is where we met up with the rest of our crew who had all gotten in on Thursday.   The Flamingo provided us a decent stay.  Nice large room, comfy bed, big bathroom mirrors (every girls needs those).  What more do you need while in Vegas?

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Pink blankets and curtains.  But of course!

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The view from our room.

Once we checked in our group walked over to the New York, New York to hit up some tables and do a little shopping.  All with Vodka Red Bulls, of course.  Those seemed to be the choice of drink for the group over the weekend.  I have a copy of the bill from Saturday to prove it.

I was completely impressed that you can walk anywhere with a drink.  Um, awesome.  And the shopping was over the top fantastic, not only for the shops, but for the scenery as well.  How cool is this interactive ceiling?  Apparently, it thunderstorms at certain hours.  I missed that show, but I can see how much of a head trip this would be with a few too many cocktails.  😉

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 Clint never takes off this HyVee sweatshirt.  I know.

That evening we went to Zumanity.  What I can offer to you regarding the show is to keep an open mind.  It is very explicit in nature, but the athleticism, dedication and artistic expression that these individuals exude was out of this world.  I was truly impressed and entertained.

Zumanity

After Zumanity we split and went different directions.  Some of us gambled, some hit up the bar, some called it a night.  Clint and I took off and walked around the Strip long enough for me to capture a few night pictures.  I wish we had spent more time out and about because there is SO much I didn’t see and my pictures are incredibly disappointing, but shoe choice and sleep deprivation started to catch up with us around 2:30am.

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Saturday night adventures include hefty bills and cots in elevators.  Stay tuned!

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We are just THAT special, folks.