Colorado motorcycle trip

For years John and I have talked about going on a motorcycle trip. This past winter John came up with the idea of riding on Route 66 through Illinois and Missouri. Over time the trip was changed to riding on Route 50 to Pueblo, Colorado and then up to Colorado Springs.

US 50 runs through our home town of Bedford, Indiana. It runs the length of the United States from Maryland to California. It would be a scenic ride through the small towns of the Midwest. We decided the trip would start on June 11, 2004. I adapted my GPS to the bike, bought larger saddlebags, a sissybar bag, a tank bag, and a larger windshield.

June 11

Bedford, IN. 8:11, initial mileage is 4667 - We leave John's house. His wife Debby is riding with him. Their daughter Ashton is riding with me. After a couple quick stops we are on the open road. The sky is overcast and the temperature is in the low 80's.

Vincennes, IN. 9:50, mileage 4737 - We stop for fuel. The sky has cleared. John and Debby smoke a cigarette. I drink a Mountain Dew. We will be leaving Indiana soon. I'm excited to be starting our trip. I haven't had a vacation in over 20 years and I'm looking forward to having a good time.

Lebanon, IL. 12:37, mileage 4872 - We stop for fuel and lunch. We've just ridden 135 miles and crossed most of Illinois. We have lunch at Hardees. Most of our legs were planned to be in the 130-160 mile range, but we decide to break the legs into shorter rides. The long rides are a little more than we're used to. We'll shoot for 75 miles or so.

The drive through Illinois reminded me of the south western Indiana we'd left...mostly flat farmland. I enjoyed looking at the polebarns for building ideas. I also keep an eye on the railroad tracks for trains.

St. Louis, MO. 15:00, mileage 4921 - We stop for fuel, to rest, and to find out where we are. Detour signs led us off the route we planned to take, and we were in stop and go traffic for at least an hour. The sun was hot, the pavement was hot, and our bikes were hot. Then we noticed the US50 signs had disappeared. US50 has turned on us somewhere and now we needed to find it again. The gas station attendent said we'd gotten onto 'business' 50. We broke out the map and decided what we needed to do. I quick jog onto I-64, then I-270 to I-44 and we were back on our route. It cost us almost two hours by the time we were back on track.

Union, MO. 16:00, mileage 4963 - We stopped for drinks and to rest a bit after our St. Louis misstep. I'd noticed my left side saddlebag was sagging in towards the tire, and I was afraid it might rub. I messed with it a little but didn't accomplish much.

As we rode through rural Missouri it reminded me of rural Indiana...rolling hills, trees, rustic scenery. We drove through the little town of Rosebud and noticed something cool...almost every motorcycle we saw was a custom chopper. I bet we saw a dozen of them. We were surprised to see so many beautiful bikes in such a small town.

Jefferson City, MO. 17:40, mileage 5047 - Gas stop. While we were under the gas station canopy it rained for a few minutes. I had a lemonade. This was as close to being rained on as we came the whole trip.

Sedalia, MO. 19:01, mileage 5106 - Our typical gas stop...get gas, drink a pop or water, John and Debby smoke, and we go over our next leg of the trip. It's been a long day and we have one more ride to go.

We also stopped at Walmart. The girls wanted to buy some T-shirts and sunscreen. I bought some shoe laces and worked on my saddlebags. I tied them up. It helped a little.

Olathe, KS. 21:05, mileage 5203 - It was getting late by the time we got to our last stop for the day, Olathe. We decided to stay at the Comfort Suites. We ate at the nearby Steak 'n' Shake and went to bed. We had driven 536 miles today and we were tired. None of us had ridden that much before and we were all road weary. That night it stormed while we slept but I didn't notice at all. The drive through Missouri had been pleasant.

June 12

Gardner, KS. 9:15, mileage 5217 - We fueled up outside of Olathe at the Gardner exit of US50. The weather was cool and overcast. We thought we might get into some rain. Today our plan was to cross Kansas and stop somewhere across the Colorado border.

Emporia, KS. 10:36, mileage 5295 - Fuel stop. The clouds have cleared and it is warming up. The land is flattening out and turning to mostly wheat. US50 has shared I-35 from Olathe but now US50 breaks away across the plains of Kansas.

Newton, KS. 12:32, mileage 5372 - We fueled, and ate lunch at KFC. They had good livers and gizzards. We were slowed somewhat by road construction. It is also becoming hotter.

Stafford, KS. 13:39, mileage 5446 - Fuel and a much needed break. The sun is hot. It is windy and the wind is hot. The blacktop is hot. It is HOT! We're all nursing sunburns already. The last bank sign we passed said 99 degrees and I believe it.

Despite the heat, the ride is interesting. It must be time to harvest as there are combines and grain trucks everywhere. The land is flat and one wheat field after another. The railroad parallels the highway. Every so often you see grain silos on the horizon and you know another small town is approaching.

Near Kinsley there is a road sign stating we are in the center of the United States. Just down the road is a steam locomotive on permanant display. It's the little things like these that make traveling down a 2-lane highway interesting.

Dodge City, KS. 16:33, mileage 5530 - We fueled up in the infamous Dodge City. There was another steam locomotive on display next to the gas station.

The flatlands have given way to less flat rolling hills. It's kind of grassy yet barren. We've started passing the stockyards Dodge City has been famous for since the 1800's.

Coming into Garden City I was slightly blinded by the sun popping out from behind the clouds and it made my eyes water and burn. It also caused me to miss the signs and we ended up on another 'business 50' through Garden City. Not that big of a deal but it probably cost us 15 minutes or so.

I had the GPS so I was the designated leader. The GPS was nice. You could see the roads ahead and know about where you were. It also shows railroads and such. Having the GPS to glance at made the ride less monotonous.

Lakin, KS. 18:15, mileage 5608 - It's now actually 17:15 local time as we've crossed a time zone. We have one more leg to go. After we cross into Colorado we'll start looking for a place to stay.

As we were nearing Lakin we came upon a train. It was a long coal long I couldn't even see the beginning of the train. Before we could catch the front we stopped for gas. One of my favorite parts of the ride was looking for trains as I have loved them since I was young.

Lamar, CO. 19:47, mileage 5689 - Ashton wanted a hotel with a pool so we decided to stay at the Travel Lodge. We got adjoining rooms which was handy. It is a decent place so we decided to stay at Travel Lodges for the rest of the trip. There was also a Travel Lodge directory in the room we used to help us determine our destinations. We ate supper at the Best Western two doors down. I had steak. Yummy!

Prior to Colorado the city signs listed population. In Colorado the signs listed elevation. The elevation at Lamar was over 3600 feet. When I got off the bike at the hotel I was a little dizzy from the altitude change. The elevation is 625 feet where I live. When I awoke the next morning I had acclimated and felt fine.

June 13

We fueled up and left Lamar at 8:17. We only had a few hours of riding to our final destination...Colorado Springs.

Here we're getting ready to leave. Things are taking on more of a western atmosphere.

La Junta, CO. 9:22, mileage 5747 - The little town was quiet and sleepy on this Sunday morning as we stopped to get fuel. I had started carrying my camera on me so I snapped a few pictures.

Pueblo, CO. 10:42, mileage 5812 - The Rocky Mountains are in sight. Here we part ways from US50 that we've travelled on for the last 1145 miles. It was also here Ashton uttered her now famous words that still make me laugh..."We have a problem here!"

Sometime during the ride one of the wing nuts that held my right saddlebag on had come loose. This allowed the front corner of the saddlebag to lay on the exhaust and it melted a small hole in the saddlebag.

It also burned a couple T-shirts Ashton had in the saddlebag. Luckily, there was a hardware store next door so I went and bought a couple nuts to fix the problem. When I got back John said Ashton had been sitting on the curb separating her good clothes from her burned ones like a bag lady. That also struck me as funny and I would laugh about it our whole trip.

Colorado Springs, CO. 12:15, mileage 5872 - Our final destination! We rolled into the Travel Lodge at Highway 24 and 26th Street. Once again we got adjoining rooms.

From our room we could see Pike's Peak. It is the brown mountain on the right.

We finished unpacking and ate at Sonic. We then decided to drive up Pike's Peak Highway. However, before we got very far up Highway 24 John's bike starting losing power. Thinking it was altitude related he adjusted the mixture some, but he couldn't get it to run well. We rode back to the motel and he and I fiddled with it for awhile. There was a Checker Auto Parts store across the street so we bought a new air filter and fuel filter. He also adjusted it more and said it was running better.

We decided to quit messing with the bike and we walked across Highway 24 to the old part of Colorado City where they have shops and such. It was nice to walk around after spending the last 2 1/2 days on a bike. There were lots of nice bikes and cars to be seen driving around.

We went back to the motel and decided to eat at The Mason Jar and to go to the Seven Falls. The Seven Falls is located outside of Colorado Springs. The park is based on a series of seven waterfalls, but there is more to see than that.

Disembarking from the bikes after entering the Seven Falls.

The stream from the Seven Falls runs past a gift shop and over a few smaller falls.

There is a platform where you can see the Seven Falls and the surrounding hills. You can walk up the stairway or take an elevator. We took the elevator.

The tunnel was bored by the same company who did the tunnels for NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain. Here we are looking back at the entrance.

Here is a view towards the elevator.

The tunnel stays at a cool 50 degrees year round.

Here is a view from the platform. On the left is the bottom of the seven falls. Indian dancing is performed near the teepee. There is a gift shop and concession stands. The lights are shining on trout in the small lake area. Food is sold to feed the fish and the fish are big.

Here is a view of the Seven Falls. The walkway leads to a trail that goes around the park.

A cable car used to provide access to the platform before the elevator was installed. The cable car is still used to haul supplies to the platform and gift shop.

Here is a blurry shot of the Seven Falls during the light show.

On the way back we made a loop through the hills to see the lights of Colorado Springs. When we got back to the motel John said his bike still wasn't up to par and he also noticed his lights and turn signals weren't working right. His battery was old and had given him problems in the past so he thought it might be the problem. He would go to Checker in the morning and see about getting a new one. Debby also thought it would be a good idea to get a rental car for sightseeing the next day. We all agreed.

June 14

I got up that morning and called rental car places. I finally booked a mid-sized car through Budget. It was decided Ashton and I would go get the rental car while John took his bike to Checker for diagnosis.

Ashton and I rode to Budget. She stayed outside while I made the arrangements. While I was there I noticed pictures of the cars they rented. I asked the lady if they had any convertible Mustangs available and how much more they were than the mid-sized car I had reserved. Yes, they had one available and it was only $11 more. Bingo! We'd be riding in style.

As I walked to our rental car there was a gray generic, 4-door car setting next to the Mustang. I asked Ashton which car was our's, and she rather depressingly said "I guess the gray one." Her eyes about popped out when I slid the key into the red, 40th-anniversary, convertible Mustang. She was even more excited when I told her she was driving back to the motel. She was living large for a 17-year old. We got many compliments on the car that day.

While Ashton and I were getting the Mustang, John had ridden his bike to Checker for an analysis. An elderly gentleman named Dean brought the tester out to check his bike. John said the first thing Dean asked was if John's bike was a diesel. John said right then he knew he was in trouble. Diesel Dean told John his battery was fine but his charging system wasn't working. John ordered a new battery anyway, and Dean said he would charge it up for him. John would install it tonight and see if it helped.

When I got back we hopped in the Mustang (top down, of course) and went up the Pike's Peak Highway.

Next we ate at a barbeque place in Manitou Springs. We then drove around and went to the Garden of the Gods.

We came back to the motel to relax and so John could get his battery. We went to Checkers only to find out Diesel Dean hadn't charged the battery like he said he would. It was still in the box on the counter. The lady at the counter said she would charge it over night and it would be ready in the morning.

Debby decided she would like some ice cream so we cruised to Dairy Queen. Afterwards we took a convertible cruise around Colorado Springs enjoying the sights and the beautiful weather. We returned to the motel to do some laundry and rest for the night. We also decided on the return trip we'd go back on I-70 to save time.

June 15

Mileage 5955 - We packed, ran over the Checkers to hopefully get John's charged battery. It was. He installed it and his bike ran much better. We took back the rental car, gassed up the bikes, and bid a sad farewell to Colorado Springs.

Limon, CO. 12:20, mileage 6013 - We left 2-lane Highway 24 and started our journey back home on I-70.

Burlington, CO. 13:35, mileage 6094 - Once we were on the interstate we cruised at around 75-80 mph. The interstate wasn't totally bland, but there wasn't as much to look at, so the main focus was on getting down the road.

Colby, KS. 14:42, mileage 6161

Hays, KS. 16:27, mileage 6269 - We decided since we're making better time to increase the legs to around 100 miles or so.

Salina, KS. 18:11, mileage 6364

Alma, KS. 19:48, mileage 6455

Grain Valley, MO. 21:28, mileage 6566 - After a roller coaster like ride through Kansas City we arrived at our Travel Lodge on the east side of Kansas City, MO. We picked up some food at Subway and went to bed. At this point the main focus of the trip was to get home.

June 16

Booneville, MO. 10:29, mileage 6646

Wright City, MO. 12:12, mileage 6745 - We gassed up and ate at McDonalds. On the way through St. Louis we stopped on the riverfront so Debby could take some pictures of the Arch...

...and the Mississippi River.

Lebanon, IL. 14:41, mileage 6823 - We all feel like we're getting closer to home.

Salem, IL. 15:56, mileage 6875

Vincinnes, IN. 17:40, mileage 6961 - Our last pitstop. The next time we stop we'll be home.

Bedford, IN. 19:14, mileage 7043 - We're home! The last 20 miles or so we were driving on rain soaked roads so our bikes are extra nasty. We were amazed to not get rained on the entire trip.

Overall I had a great time on my vacation. 2376 miles of bike riding and 130 miles in a Mustang convertible. I forgot how nice it is to just have fun. It was nice to be home but it's also kind of sad the adventure is over. But there's always next time.

As I drove through Bedford on the way to my house I realized Bedford fit on US50...a small town on an old 2-lane highway.

See You on the Highway

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