Colorado 2012 Ride - Day Seven (May 26th)

Parker, CO to Estes Park, CO

On day seven, Steve and Suzanne Weston and I rode to Estes Park, Colorado (the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park) so we could attend the wedding of the son of my long-time friends, John and Betsy Dietrich.  For this ride, we decided to ride Colorado Highway 119, otherwise known as the Peak to Peak Highway.  This route offered some breathtaking views of the Colorado Rockies.

Along the way, we stopped in Nederland for a quick bite of lunch.  While there, I had the opportunity to briefly see a restored carousel that used to be located in an arcade along the Great Salt Lake.

We arrived in Estes Park shortly after 2:00 p.m., and quickly cleaned so we could attend Rob and Meagan’s wedding at 4 o’clock.  The post-wedding party lasted well into the evening.  Tomorrow, I will make my way down to Pueblo, Colorado to rendezvous with the five guys that I will be sharing the ride with for the tour of Colorado, Utah, and Northern Arizona.

2012 Colorado Ride - Day Six (May 25th)

Parker, CO to Colorado Springs, CO

The prior day, the Weston’s and I had made plans to ride to Pike’s Peak, which was located about 40 miles south near Colorado Springs.  Unfortunately, when we awoke, the sky was very overcast and the day’s forecast called for very windy conditions to develop later in the day.  A quick phone call to the Pike’s Peak Visitors Center determined that the road to the peak was currently going to be open, despite some fog along the way, but they would be re-evaluating conditions during the day.  We decided to head out and see what it was like once we arrived in Colorado Springs.

The ride to Colorado Springs along Highway 83 was pleasant, although the temperature dropped to 41 degrees as we pass through some higher elevations along the way.  The temperatures climbed back into the upper 50s by the time we reached Colorado Springs and we found conditions improving by the time we reached the entrance to the 17-mile long Pike’s Peak Highway.

As we started out climb, I quickly realized I had made a mistake when we left home.  I had opted to leave my tank bag behind at the Weston’s, and with it, my compact point-and-shoot camera that I was wearing around my neck as I ride.  Not having that camera meant that I missed a lot of photographic opportunities along the road up to the summit.  On the other hand, the road was challenging to ride, especially as it climbed and we encountered more and more tight switchbacks (and very slow moving automobile traffic).

To our surprise, the road to the summit was completely paved (in times past, the upper section of the road was unpaved).  By the time we reached the summit (14,110 feet), the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and the winds were blowing about 35 to 40 mph.

We went into the Summit Visitor Center and warmed up for a bit, and paused to take some photos of the view and the famous cog railroad, before making the trip back down.  Along the way, we stopped a couple of time to take some additional photos.

The trip to the summit of Pike’s Peak was exhilarating, and is a trip I would recommend to anyone who is visiting the Colorado Springs area.

2012 Colorado Ride - Day Five (May 24th)

Parker, Colorado

Day Five was a rest day for me.  Steve Weston arrived home on his motorcycle, after a week long fishing trip in Canada.  We made plans to ride to the top of Pike's Peak on the following day (Friday, May 25th).

2012 Colorado Ride - Day Four (May 23rd)

Russell, KS to Parker, CO

Day four was the final leg of my westbound trip to the Denver area.  Prior to leaving on the trip, I was unable to find any noteworthy point of interest to stop and see along the way.  Besides, the wind was still blowing very strongly when I woke up, so I decided that I should simply ride directly to my next destination, the home of Steve and Suzanne Weston in Parker, Colorado.  Parker is located just south of Denver.

After a quick breakfast, I packed up the motorcycle and started west on Interstate 70.  The wind was still blowing out of the south at 25 to 30 mph.  I continued to find myself having to lean the motorcycle about 15 to 20 degrees to the left, into the wind, just to maintain a path straight forward.  Somewhere along the way, the winds shifted and began blowing from the north (my right-to-left).  As a result, I now found myself having to lean the bike to the right to maintain a path of travel straight ahead.  This made passing tractor-trailer trucks hazardous.  As I would approach the truck (with me in the left lane and the truck in the right lane), the wind would abate and I would shift the bike to straight upright.  As I passed alongside, I often found the bike wanting to lean into the truck, and as I completed the pass, the winds would immediately hit me as soon as I cleared the truck’s cab.  All in all, it made for a tiring ride.

The temperature started out in the low 70s and rode a bit.  However, as I continued into Colorado itself, the temperature started to drop a bit.  I soon find myself chilled, but continued to push onward.  Once I exited I-70, I stopped and put on a wind liner since the temperature had dropped to 67 degrees.  As I continued on Colorado Highway 86, and climbed in altitude, the temperature continued to drop, eventually reaching a brisk 61 degrees (with the winds continuing to blow).

I eventually reached Franktown and turned northward on Colorado 83.  I safely arrived at the home of Steve and Suzanne Weston around mid-day.  By the time I arrived at their house, the temperature had dropped to the low 60s and about three hours later, rain showers started as a front moved through the area.  I made it there in the nick of time!

2012 Colorado Ride - Day Three (May 22nd)

Springfield, MO to Russell, KS

Day three took me from Springfield, Missouri to Russell, Kansas, with sightseeing stops in West Mineral, Kansas and Hutchinson, Kansas.  The day’s ride was not as ambitious as the previous day, from a mileage perspective, but was quite long because of the stops.

I left Springfield before 7:00 a.m., to beat the morning commuter traffic.  The temperatures were a brisk 46 degrees.  After clearing Springfield, I rode through some more beautiful farm land.  I soon discovered that the roads I was following was part of the famous Route 66 route from Chicago to California.

After traveling approximately an hour and half from Springfield, I turned onto some back country roads.  The roads alternated between fields and wooded areas where I found myself riding through a tunnel of green.

 My ride soon led me to the site of Big Brutus – the world’s largest electric shovel.  Even before I arrived at the site, I was able to see the boom towering over the trees.

I soon arrived at the visitor’s center, which was still closed, but opened shortly after my arrival.  After my admission fee, I chatting with a staff member for a few minutes, browsed the museum’s indoor exhibits, and watched a video of original assembly footage of Big Brutus.  Then it was time to head outside and see the real thing.

It was a short walk from the visitor’s center to the site where Big Brutus now resides.  For lack of a better word, Bug Brutus is --- immense.  From the crawler tracks to the top of the boom, the shovel is 15 stories tall.  When the shovel was in operation, it weighed about 11,000,000 pounds and was able to move 90 cubic yards (enough to fill three railroad cars!).

The interior of the shovel is open for tours, but the boom is no longer open to the public – the boom was closed in 2004 due to insurance company concerns with liability.  The interior is huge.

The shovel operated for 11 years, around the clock, until ceasing operation in 1974.
There were many other interesting antique machines on display around the museum’s grounds.

After spending almost two hours there, I decided it was time to move on to Hutchinson to see the Kansas Salt Museum.  The ride from West Mineral to Hutchinson was approximately 200 miles (about three hours).  The ride first took me west on US Highway 400 to Wichita, then west and northwest to Hutchinson.  By this time, the temperatures were climbing into the mid 70s and the famous  Kansas winds were beginning to blow.  Through the remainder of the day, the winds were blowing a steady 25 to 30 mph, making for a fatiguing ride.

The Kansas Salt Museum is part of a still operational salt mine and is the only salt mine in the western hemisphere that is open for public tours.

After purchasing my ticket, I had to wait about one half hour for the next tour to start.  After watching a short safety video, we were issued a hard hat and an emergency survival breather kit, in case of a accident.  If needed, the breather kit would convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide.  Mining regulations required that we have the breather kits with us and that we wear hard hats will in the mine.  The it was time to load the elevator for the ride down 650 feet into the mine.

The ride down took and one and half minutes, and during the ride, you could feel the pressure change occur in your ears.  Once in the mine, we were told that the salt vein in the area begins at a depth of 400 feet and extends to approximately 70 feet below us (remember, we were at 650 feet).  Above the salt was a layer referred to as mud – basically shale rock.

After a short orientation talk, we were released for a self guided tour through a gallery area.  The gallery had ceilings nine feet high, and extended hundreds of feet in front of us.  We could see more of the museum area about 300 feet down the gallery.

Touring the galleries, you could see mock-ups of how salt mining operations are conducted, the equipment used, and some of the old vehicles that have been used in the mines over the decades.

One area included displays of a number of Hollywood film props.  Many Hollywood films and props are stored in this mine because of the environmental conditions – a constant 68 degrees and 40 percent humidity.

A company has a 100 year lease for space in the mine for archival storage facilities.  They 218 galleries, similar in size to the one we were touring, for storage of records, films, and other things.  Those areas are not open to the public.

I also took both a tram ride and a train ride back into other areas of the mine that show how it was left by miners over 60 years ago.

After more than two hours in the mine, I decided it was time to head back to the surface.  I still had another two hours of travel to reach my final destination for the day – Russell, Kansas.  When I returned outside the museum, the winds were still blowing as strong as earlier in the day, and the winds made for a brutal and very tiring ride.  I finally rolled into Russell a little after 7:00 p.m.  It had been a long day, but well worth it seeing both Big Brutus and the Salt Museum.

More pictures from the day’s ride are available in my Picasa webalbum.