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.

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. ūüôā¬†

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. ūüôā

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 caf√© 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.