Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rocky Mountain high, in all ways

July 17.  It was clear and cold, 40-some degrees. I felt quite at home except I did not have electric grips or gear. At least I now have a pair of chaps on this bike and I was wearing them, along with two shirts, a leather vest, a hoodie, my jacket, and my headband and helmet to keep my head and ears warm.

This little buck posed for me. 

The park is not too crowded at that time of the morning and we did spot elk but never the big bull I wanted to see. We meandered the entire day, and we hiked a couple of the trails.

Here we are, having hiked up to 12,183 feet. 
Yep, we climbed to the top, and even got back down ... no rolling allowed. 
Yep.  We climbed all of these steps ... all the way to the top.
That's not us, but those are the steps.
The scenery from the top was incredible and I'm glad we made these hikes.

The trails start high, but when hiking them put us over 12,000 feet in elevation. We did them, but I'm wondering why they don't have benches and oxygen bars for us people that live at sea level, and are old!!! The hikes were worth it, with spectacular views of the mountains and valleys that make this park famous. We saw elk,deer and whistle pigs (marmots), and even a little pika, which is kind of a smaller version of a marmot.

There were a lot of elk in this herd, but they kept moving away from us.
Mama, mama.  Wait for me.  I only have little short legs.
Laying right next to the road, this litle marmot was not interested in moving.  He was catching some warmth, I guess.
Yep, a little sun worshipper!
Surpisingly, I still had some air in my lungs to laugh.

Rock formations, snow, green tundra, flowers … we were at the top of the world and standing in the beauty of it all, maybe breathing heavily, but we were there and enjoying every second.

No matter where you turned, there was a photo opportunity.
The mountain tops abounded in flowers ... lavender, white, yellow.  They were all beautiful, but small due to the location, the wind, the nutrients in the ground. 
Mushroom rocks were at near the top of the other hike we'd taken this day.
I loved being on the top of the mountains, looking eye-to-eye at clouds in the distance.
Hallelujah!!!!  We got there and back!!!
The road is a combination of flat, twisties, spirals, great green pastures and breathtaking cliffs falling off on the side. You can only look for a second because remember, on a bike, you go where you look. I stayed toward the center of the lane so I could take those one-second memory bytes.

And yes, I was taking this from the motorcycle ... point and shoot my good Canon camera.  Worked quite well.
The roads we traveled today wound around the mountainsides and were such a pleasure to ride.
It was a lovely day and we got down to Estes Park. We wandered through town and out the other end, and found a historic church. We decided to turn around and then Hobbs took his own Rocky Mountain rodeo ride. He hit the turn around in a small parking lot a little hot, went up the side of a hill into the dirt, back down onto the pavement, up again although not highlining this time, back down, through some rocks … I knew he was going over. Somehow he manhandled that bike up, down, over, through, and finally after heartstopping seconds, came to a stop. OMG!!! I had just stopped and watched this wild ride, like a bucking horse and a cowboy glued to its back. It was more excitement than either of us needed as the heartpounding could have put both of us into cardiac arrest.

We finally got back to the church parking lot … what beautiful architecture. Churchs are a marvel in that respect.

Catholic churches are truly beautiful architecture.
My photo of the inside does not do justice.  It's a very simple church, but quite inviting.
The stained glass in this small church of rock was stunning.
Hobbs and the bikes made for the perfect photo of the statue on the hill.

Then we found a hotel, ate a dinner for champions … tuna sandwich, chocolate milk and Pringles for him; cheese, Pringles, apple and peanut butter for me. Yep. Tired, broke, and possibly having to hitch a ride home.

An absolutely beautiful, wonderful day, and a perfect end to the trip we've been on.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

You can never have too many good friends

July 16

Mac came to the motel the next morning (Tuesday, July 16), at 6 a.m. It was perfect timing since he got off work at 5 a.m., and we wanted to be on the road by 7 a.m. He was worth staying at the second-worst motel I'd stayed at on this trip. Except, the shower was new, so I was way okay with that. We had an excellent, though short, visit, and we were off again. The Hoka Hey Cowboy was in my rearview mirror, shoes, black socks, shorts, cowboy hat and the ghost bike. What a guy! A very special guy!!!

Mac and me in Wamsutter, Wyoming.  Where?  Don't think I could find that place on my own.

We were moving right along, antelope appeared right and left. They were like ants at a picnic. We've seen a great number of them, some deer, and a few chipmunks or something that don't know better than to try to cross the road. The timeline for the Henke meet was noon to 1 p.m. We were on track to get to Rifle on time … and even stopped now and then to get out of the sun and kill a little time. Then we heard about the construction. Oh, good grief!!!

Sure enough, a wait, a pilot car, but wait, there was no more. No water truck. The construction folks were falling down on the job. We got through it, only to run into more construction, but this time we didn't have to wait, and there was no gravel.

This volcanic uplift of rocks is known as Fortification Rocks.  (Hobbs misread that ... if you know what I mean.)  It's believed the several Indian tribes would gather here prior to going into battle.  Today its known for the large number of rattlesnakes found there.
Into Rifle we rode, turning down one street, then another. A car honked. At us? Nah! Could it be? A car honking, honking, honking. I looked to my left, and there racing their pickup erratically through a parking lot was Jerry driving, and Andi hanging out the window waving and hollering. I tried to catch up with Hobbs. By now we were cutting in and out of traffic, moving with another bike getting in between us. I finally caught up with him. We'd all found each other. What a reunion … handshaking, hugging.

It was so special to see our friends. Jerry had been to Anchorage but it had been so long since we'd seen Andi and it was enough to make your heart swell … and tears flow.

I sure do miss these folks!!!  Jerry and Andi Henke, and Hobbs in Rifle, CO.

Lunch, talk, talk, talk, hugs and then, once again, two hours later, we hit the road. This time we headed to the Harley shop on i-70. For an Interstate it's absolutely beautiful. It runs along what I think is the Colorado River. The east lanes run low near the river and the west lanes run higher nearly on top of the east lanes. We ran through some tunnels and it was just great up until the point the truck nearly crushed Hobbs.

This 18-wheeler was in the right-hand lane; we were in the left, going to pass him. Three cop cars had a vehicle pulled over on the right shoulder. The truck put on his blinker, so we figured he'd wait for us to get by. Nope. Not at all. Came right on over. I saw him coming, hit my brakes semi-hard and backed off. Hobbs had to hit his very hard since the truck was in his lane and coming on over. A near miss, but all ended well. We caught up to the truck, passed him and let him know he was Number 1 in both our books.

Harley shop. Check. More great roads. Check. And we got within striking distance of Rocky Mountain National Park. Hot Sulphur Springs.

I should never have gotten up at 5 a.m. to meet Mac. Now Hobbs knows I can do it. Wednesday, July 17. 5 a.m. wake up call, with a 6 a.m.-ish departure to go to the park and find elk.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thermopolis HOG rally continued

July 13 and on

Very cute.  I think they like us.

Saturday came, the big day in rally time … banquet, awards and so on. But we had biker bidness to do.

We looked at the big mineral rock while we waited for the Chamber of Commerce to open so we could get the key to the gate for Legend Rock.
And a little time down by the river.
We wanted to go to Legend Rock first, which was about 30 miles away. We had to get a key to the gate from the Chamber of Commerce. They weren't open so we had a little time to kill so we went and looked at the large rocks created from the mineral deposits.

The very first thing we ran into heading to Legend Rock was road construction, a pilot car, and a water truck. They sure know how to make you feel at home here. Good grief. I don't come down here to ride through gravel or rain.

Gravel?  Oh yeah!!
But we got through it and rode to the Rock, once again feeling at home when we got to do a few miles of gravel into the site.

Unlocking the gate to access Legend Rock.
Legend Rock State Archeological Site is a 400-meter long, near vertical cliff with more than 92 prehistoric petroglyph panels and over 300 petroglyph figures, mostly more than thousands of years old.

The large figure appears to have a second figure inside of it with one or two others attached to its outer body.  Sometimes smaller figures inside of larger ones were thought to be helpers of the larger ones, while others believe it represents pregancy. 
This group includes a thunderbird, which is associated with power and two phallic male figures (even porn back then).  Several layers exist on the panel, with some dating to the early Archaic Period (8000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.).  What's interesting to me in this petroglyph is the smooth-headed figure on the upper right that I liken to many of the drawings we see of aliens.  Were they around and Indians saw them?  It's a mystery to me.
While I don't like doing gravel, the visit to Legend Rock was well worth the trip. We were the only folks out wandering around until we were nearly back to the starting point.

Shoshone and Crow Indians believed that elk spirit could provide a "love medicine" that gave a person the ability to attract a mate.  The elk spirit could also make a warrior stronger.  However, this particular petroglyph is believed to have been made within the last 2,000 years.  The R.H. initials are of an individual who died during WWI. 
From there it was back to town to visit the Wyoming Dinosaur Museum to finish up the poker run, and see dinosaurs. Of course, we got to do the construction gravel and pilot car again, and ride over the watered down road. Yeehaw. I feel so loved here.

This could be touched, but I would not.  This one's for you, Flounder.
The guitarfish is part of a family of sharks, with a body type between a typical shark and a ray.
I'd not want to be in the same area as this thing.  Dunkleosteus terrelli, an armored animal which could grow to 33 feet in lenth, it was the top predator of its time.  Of the known and extinct animals, it had one of the strongest bite forces ever, at 11,000 pounds (80,000 pounds per square inch at the tip of its jaws).  Its jaws were used to bite its prey in half in a single bite.
The dimetrodon is famous for the large sail along its back.  The sail was formed by elongated spines from the vertebrae.  It's debated as to the purpose of the sail, whether it was used to help heat or cool itself, or it was used as a sail for swimming, camouflage or to help attract a mate.
The museum also was well worth the visit. Dinosaur sites are pretty amazing. This place has one of the largest display of dinosaurs. And so it was pretty incredible.

This prehistoric turtle-like thing was particularly spooky.  It reminded me of a face out of a horror movie.  I sure wouldn't want to meet up with this in the water.  Above the hills of Thermopolis, bones of dinosaurs lay buried in layers of rock for millions of years.  It wasn't until 1993 that fossil hunters discovered that the bones weathering out of the mountainsides were actually fossilized dinosaur bones.
While I don't have the particulars on most of the skeletons in the museum, this appears to be an alligator type.  The Wyoming Dinosaur Center has fossil fish from Scotland, flying reptiles from Brazil, dinosaurs from China and marine reptiles from several continents on display.
Zuniceratops is a species of horned dinosaurs that is distantly related to the larger forms such as triceratops.  The frill on the back served as an attachment point for muscles and to protect the neck from predators.  The horns most likely were used for protection and intimidation. 
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center complex includes a world-class museum, dinosaur dig sites, a preparation laboratory and, of course, a great gift shop.
The HOG banquet was good, and as usual, we got plenty to eat. No one ran out of food. There was even cake, which I put on Facebook to show everyone. It was a lot of frosting.

While we didn't win any of the raffles, Hobbs won the longest distance ridden award, 1,506 miles – the most direct route. So we did not come away empty-handed. It was a nice rally, and not too crowded. There were about 300 registered.

There's the proof ... the award.
Then, Sunday, July 14, we were once again back on the road. Wyoming is a beautiful state to ride in and we've covered pretty much the four corners of it and then some. He's look for live stuff; I'm looking for dead … shed from deer or elk. I'd be happy with either. But while I saw some carcasses, there was nothing with horns other than a dead mule deer, and I didn't want to take those.

There are always surprises along the road ... and patriotism shines through.
A map check is always in order.
Part of the bronze roundup, the project is a tribute to the pioneers who originally settled Lander Valley in Wyoming.
More than 600 individuals, families, organizations, groups and businesses contributed to this project.
We were going through the best Wyoming has to offer, heavily-forested areas (Shoshone National Forest, Bridger-Teton National Forest), green grass, then dry areas where there's no water. But it's beautiful in its own way. We're heading to northeastern Colorado to meet up with Andi and Jerry Henke, who we've known for years. I met Jerry through Chugach Electric where I worked. They bought bikes and we all rode together. They left Alaska and now winter in Arizona and summer in Colorado. While we'd seen Jerry a couple of years ago in Alaska we'd not seen Andi in seven years. It was high time.

The metalwork always intrigues me.  This one was a long one on top of a marker for the Lander Cutoff of the Oregon Trail.
I've wanted to have photos of some of these for a long time.  Now there's two.
But that would be in a day or two. I wanted to go to Afton, Wyoming, to eat at Rulon Gardener's Burger Barn. Rulon is a former Olympic wrestling gold medalist, I'd heard him speak at a conference I'd attended through work and I'd watched him on the television show, Biggest Loser. So off we went to Afton.
To get there, we ended up on more gravel roads. What is Hobbs doing to me? We rode to Atlantic City and South Pass, old mining sites. Survived all of that gravel, too, and having to turn around on it a couple of times.

Rulon's was not what I'd expected, being part of a convenience-store-type of place. But we did burgers and they had the good fries, hand-cut. The burger was actually quite good, and I was happy to go there since it was on my list of things I wanted to do on this trip.

There are deer antlers everywhere.  This one had a small arch and another behind it that was also very cool.
This smaller arch with the elk sculture at the top was my favorite.
The other thing in Afton is the biggest elk horn arch. Yippee, skippy. Another photo op. And getting to Afton in the first place was just a great ride, and that's what it's all about. Riding, riding and more riding. Did I mention riding and back roads which are the best kind of riding … as long as they're not gravel?

World's largest elkhorn arch, Afton, Wyoming.
This archway stretches across four lanes of traffic, and has smaller arches on either side at the base.  Glad we went to Afton.

By Monday night (July 15), we were looking for a place to stay as we were within striking distance of meeting with Henke's on Tuesday. Wamsutter, Wyoming. Now why would anyone want to stay there? One reason … Mac Burrell. My friend lives there, driving trucks for the oil field industry. He had been going to try to get to the rally but it didn't work out. So here we were. I called him. He said, “You're where?” Wamsutter!!! He was working so we made arrangements to meet at 6 a.m. for breakfast.