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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Scenic Roads #1 - #5

This is part 2 of 2 about my choice of the top ten scenic roads I have ridden.

Part 1 of 2 - Scenic Roads #6 - #10 post        video

As stated in part 1 - "Scenic Roads" are roads with great views and/or wildlife viewing opportunities.  These views are worth slowing down for and/or parking the bike to enjoy the surroundings for a moment.  Some of the "roads" I have chosen are really combinations of roads fitting together as one ride/route.

5) Tennesse 165/ North Carolina 143 a.k.a. Cherohala Skyway  - Map -  43 miles.  The Cherohala Skyway runs from Tellico Plains, TN (860 feet) to the Santeetiah Gap (2,660 feet) north of Robbinsville, NC.  The Santeetiah Overlook is the highest overlook of the Skyway at 5,390 feet.  The Skyway has a great combination of twisties and sweeping curves.  There are numerous overlooks along the road, each provides an awesome view of the Smoky Mountains. The Skyway runs though the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests and very little signs of civilization are seen, other the road and the vehicles on it.

Cherohala Skyway on the NC side

4) Yellowstone National Park roads - Map - 310 miles of paved road.  The roads in Yellowstone National Park provides the most diverse and unique scenery of any road I have traveled and of course home of the world famous Old Faithful.  The park roads run through Lamar Valley, known as America's Serengeti because the amount of wildlife in the valley (the valley is home to bison, elk, wolves, and has the highest concentration of grizzly bears) and Hayden Valley, also home to a large amount of wildlife. Eagle Peak (11,358 ft - highest peak in YNP) and Mt. Washburn (10,219 ft) are two of the many awesome mountains in the park.  Geysers, waterfalls, rivers, canyons, valleys, mountains, wildlife, wildflowers are all park of the experience as you ride through the park. The 45 mph speed limits and "bison jams" (everyone stops when they see wildlife) means there is not any knee dragging or floorboard scraping, but the views are great!
 Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is spectacular
I really struggled on the order of the top 3 on my list.  I kept switch them back and forth.  I finally just had to make a decision - here it goes.

3) Colorado 550 a.k.a. Million Dollar Highway - Map - 70 miles.  The official Million Dollar Highway is the 25 miles between Ouray and Silverton, but most people refer to the entire stretch from Durango to Ouray as the Million Dollar Highway.  The road transverses (south to north) Coal Bank Pass (10,640 ft), Molass Pass (10,910 ft), and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft).  CO 550 cuts through the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests and runs along the Animas River on the southern end.  With steep cliffs, high road grades, narrow lanes, hairpin turns, sweeping curves, and a lack of guardrails caution and care is vital.  The mountain peaks are plentiful and high.  There are 13 mountains over 14,000 ft in the area.  The historic towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Durango have a lot to offer including the famous Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  The views are breathtaking, so pull over and enjoy, there is not a lot of "forgiveness" on these mountain roads.
Million Dollar views and curves on CO 550

2) US 212 (Montana and Wyoming) a.k.a. The Beartooth Highway - Map - 67 miles (Red Lodge, MT - Cooke City, MT).  Beartooth Highway crosses the Beartooth Mountains from Montana to Wyoming back to Montana with about 34 miles in Wyoming.  Passing through parts of Shoshone National Forest and Custer National Forest the road zig zags up the mountain to the 10,947 foot Beartooth Pass and spectacular vistas.  Some of the switchbacks are really sharp, but quite enjoyable.  Near the pass the road levels off on a plateau offering views for miles (on a clear day)!  Numerous lakes can be seen from the road including Beartooth Lake at 9,000 ft.  Bear, wolf, mountain goat, and various species of birds have been seen in the area.  A great place to stop for refreshments is the Top of the World Store and Resort.  Enjoy a cold drink from the porch at 9,400 ft and soak in the view.
Oz leading the group on Beartooth Highway - July 2010
1) US 34 Colorado a.k.a. Trail Ridge Road (TRR) through Rocky Mountain National Park - Interactive Map - 64 miles (including Bear Lake Road and Moraine Ave).  The combination of wildlife and views propelled Trail Ridge Road to the #1 spot.  The amount of wildlife I have seen while traveling this road exceeds all others.  Bighorn Sheep, elk, dear, coyote, and fox are common.  Not as common is moose, but my son and I have seen three moose northeast of Grand Lake in the Kawuneeche Vallwy on two different occasions.  TRR ascends above timberline to an altitude of 12,183 feet giving US 34 the distinction of being the highest continuous highway in America.  TRR crosses the Continental Divide at Milner Pass (10,759 ft).  TRR passes the Alpine Visitor Center which sits at 11,796 ft and has a restaurant, snack bar, gift shop, and restrooms, it is a great place to take a break and enjoy the surroundings. TRR overlooks west of Milner Pass provide views of the Colorado River Headwaters, Mount Ida (12,880 ft) and Kawuneeche Valley.

The sights are too numerous to mention all of them.  This road is well traveled, but well worth the time.  I think you find all 10 Scenic Roads great rides and you will take a lot of photos.

Link to video of Scenic Roads #1 - #5 


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Scenic Roads #6 - #10

Since I started seeing the world from the seat of a motorcycle I have notice rivers and mountains are the two best road designers and when they collaborate the resulting road is awesome.  When planning rides I look for the roads near rivers and/or mountains. 
Mountain roads are never straight for very long
I have ridden in only 22 of our 50 great states; however, I have developed quite a list of roads that I would love to ride time after time and I would recommend to fellow riders.

I had hoped to develop a "Top 10" list, but I found it very difficult to narrow it down to just ten.  Some roads provide awesome and/or breathtaking views while other roads provide great curves making it impossible not to smile.  Both types are great, but difficult to compare, so I have developed my "Top 10 Scenic Roads" and "Top 10 Twisty Roads."

Scenic Roads #6 - #10
Scenic Road #1 - #5                     
Twisty Roads#6 - #10
Twisty Roads #1 - #5
          Links will become "live" as I complete each post.

"Scenic Roads" are roads with great views and/or wildlife viewing opportunities.  These views are worth slowing down for and/or parking the bike to enjoy the surroundings for a moment.  Some of the "roads" I have chosen are really combinations of roads fitting together as one ride/route.
The views are just better from the seat of a motorcycle
Disclaimer: I realize my experiences are not as vast as many riders; however, I hope the information provides useful. It is not an exhaustive list of the thousands of great roads in the USA, but it covers a decent amount of this great country.

10) Colorado 65 a.k.a. Grand Mesa Scenic Byway  Map - 63 miles. - The Grand Mesa Scenic Byway starts about 17 miles of Grand Junction on I70 (exit 49) and ends when it intersects CO 92 near Delta, CO.  The Grand Mesa is the largest mesa in the world!  The road has numerous great curves and rises almost 6,000 feet to 11,000 feet and the temperature drops as the elevation rises.  The visitor center sits at 10,200 feet and has a great view of Island Lake.  Winding down the south side of the mesa CO 65 runs through the neat small town of Cederedge. 
Island Lake seen from the visitor center
9) Pine Junction area to Woodland Park, Colorado - County Road 126 & CO 67 - Map - 47 miles.  With Mt. Evans near the northern end and Pikes Peak at the southern end riding either direction provides a great view of two of the 53 14er's (mountains with peaks at or above 14,000 feet) in Colorado.  The route runs through the Pike National Forest and crosses the South Platte River at Deckers, a good place to stop for a drink, snack, and the view.  When in Woodland Park my son and I have to eat at our favorite Colorado restaurant, the Hungry Bear,!
Never Summer Range as seen from CO 14
8) Colorado 14 a.k.a. Cache La Poudre Canyon Road - Map - 89 miles.  The road runs between Walden, Colorado and the CO 14/US 287 intersection on the west side of Fort Collins.  Carving through the canyon CO 14 runs along the Cache La Poudre River, through the Roosevelt National Forest, over Cameron Pass (10,276 feet), and through Colorado National Forest (east to west).  This area, known as North Park, is the "Moose Capitol of Colorado."  While on my 2010 summer trip we say two bull moose and two cows!  Be careful and watchful especially during dawn and dusk.  The road is surrounded by the beautiful Medicine Bow Mountains and snow capped Never Summer Range. 

Mountain Goat beside the Mt. Evans SB - keep your eyes open!

7) Mount Evans, Colorado - Squaw Pass Road (CR 66 and CO 103) and Mt. Evans Scenic Byway  (CO 5) - Map - 32 miles.  Squaw Pass Road, starting at the intersection of CR 66 and CO 74 a few miles south of I70, has a lot of curves as it climbs up the side of the mountain towards Echo Lake and the entrance to the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway.  Squaw Pass' elevation is 9,807 feet and offers great views.  The Mt. Evans Visitor Center sits at about 10,600 feet and is near beautiful Echo Lake.  From the visitor center CO 5/Mt. Evans SB climbs to the summit parking lot (about 14,150 for parking and the summit is 14,264).  Mountain goats are a common site near the summit.  The view of the surround mountains is incredible!  One can see the tops of other mountains and on a clear day Denver can be seen.
Mesa Falls is worth stopping to see.  My son taking picture of Jerry at the falls
6) Grand Tetons, WY - Map - 261 miles.  I am kind of cheating on this one because it includes multiple roads, two national parks, and three states but it is a route we rode one day during our Yellowstone trip.  The route : West on US 20 from West Yellowstone/ MT through Island Park, ID (great breakfast place) turn south on ID 47 a.k.a. Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (beautiful - worth the ride and time) to Ashton, ID, turn east on ID 32 a.k.a. Teton Scenic Byway to Tetonia, ID, turn south on ID 33 to Victor, ID continue on ID 33/WY 22 a.k.a. Teton Pass Highway to Jackson, WY, turn north on US 191/US 287 through Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park back to West Yellowstone.  The views of the Tetons from both the west and east side are incredible.  The mountains seem to just rise out of the surrounding flat land.  The opportunities to see deer, elk, bison, moose, antelope, and even bear are plentiful.  (I will post about the roads through YNP later).  There are numerous places to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
View of the Tetons from SH 33 near Driggs, ID
Check out this link to view video of Scenic Roads #6 - #10. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

You gotta stop here! Lake City Bakery

If you read many of my posts you know that I love to eat, especially when it comes to local one of kind establishments.  There is something special about the service, atmosphere, the people, and flavor at those places.

On the recommendation of my youngest sister (I have seven - for real), I made plans to stop at the Lake City Bakery while riding the Silver Thread Scenic Byway in southwest Colorado.  I was really looking forward to riding the Silver Thread, I had heard a lot about the historic road and towns. I was not disappointed.

I left Montrose, Colorado early June 27th, but I did not eat breakfast because I was going to stop at the bakery.  The ride was great.  I saw a cow elk as I ascended out of the Grand Valley on my way east on US 50.  At the east end of the Blue Mesa Reservoir I turned south on CO 149 and rolled on the throttle.

With very little traffic, a lot of curves, and plenty of elevation change the FJR was singing, I was smiling, and the stomach was growling. Officially the Silver Thread Scenic Byway does not start until Lake City and runs south 75 miles to South Fork, CO, but all of CO 149 is great.

As I neared the small town of Lake City I started looking for the small house bakery on the west side of the road.  I saw the occupied tables and chairs in front of a small white with blue trim building and knew I had found the bakery.

Cozy little Lake City Bakery welcomes customers


While parking I saw a steady stream of morning customers entering and exiting with big smiles.  The customer area is very small.  Three adults will fill up the space, but the aroma of fresh pastries makes the cramped quarters enjoyable.

There were so many options.  Donuts, muffins, pastries, breakfast burritos, sausage rolls, and more!  Being a lover of blueberries I chose the blueberry cheese pocket.  I sat outside and enjoyed every bite.  It was so fresh and tasty.  I found it difficult not to go buy more stuff!
 Blueberry cheese pocket
 I continued on the Silver Thread to Creede, CO before turning around and returning to Montrose.  On the way back through Lake City I ate lunch and could not resist the pull to stop by the bakery one more time.  I bought the Blueberry Crunch to take with me.  I was going to enjoy it at an overlook of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Blueberry Crunch!
While enjoying the scenery at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison I savored every bite of the Blueberry Crunch.  I was very impressed with both items from the bakery.  I know that the next time I am in Lake City, Colorado I will be stopping by the Lake City Bakery!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
If you are in the southwest area of Colorado make sure to ride the Silver Thread and enjoy some great food at the Lake City Bakery.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Visit Texas for good food, good riding, and world class racing.

We are excited here in Texas about hosting MotoGP races on the new track in Austin, Texas - April 19-21, 2013.  More info
New track in Austin - photo from twowheelmania.com
This will be a great race at a great venue.  Austin is in the heart of Texas and is the state capital.  It is also on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, home of some of the best riding in the south.  Here is a link to some of my posts concerning the Hill Country.  The Three Twisted Sisters is the premiere route in the Hill Country.
 The Hill Country has a lot of twisties
and a lot of ups and downs!
There are a lot of great places and roads in Texas - Link

If you want information concerning tickets for the MotoGP races you can find it here.

Ride, drive, trailer, fly, sail, or come by train, but come and visit us in Texas.  You will enjoy the hospitality, the roads, the food, and the races.  Maybe we can even all meet up and enjoy some great Texas bar-b-que or Tex-Mex.

Let me know if you are coming and if you need some suggestions on routes, restaurants,... just let me know.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Luggage for the Ninja

Quality motorcycle luggage is important for multi-day trips.  Soft motorcycle luggage is never quite as "water-proof" or durable as hard luggage, but often time is more economical and convenient.

This spring I was planning out the trip to Florida that my son and I would take.  This would be the first time he would be riding his own motorcycle, a Ninja 250.  I knew he needed some luggage for the trip, but I new there is not a huge selection for the Ninja 250.

While at the Maxim Honda (Allen, TX) Open House I spoke with a representative from Cycle Case who was showing a new line of Hi-Viz luggage.  After checking it out I bought some for my son's bike.
The color of the bags will catch the cagers' attention
Installation was easy.  The adjustable  (hook and loop) seat strap connecting the two saddlebags was easy to customize to the appropriate length for the Ninja.  The trunk fastened to the saddlebags using quick release type fasteners.  We ended up using some bungee cords to secure the truck so we could move the trunk back and not crowd the rider.
Rain cover looks good, wish it was also "Hi-Viz"
The saddle bags are equipped with an attached "waterproof" rain cover conveniently located in a zippable small pocket on the bottom edge closest to the bike.  The convenience is nice, but the covering does not cover the side closest to the bike and does not have a draw string to tighten the cover securely on the saddlebag, instead it has an elastic strap sewn into the opening of the cover.  We found this to be a big problem.  Water eventually soaked through that side during a long period of riding in the rain.  The cover had a tendency to blow off after a period of time.  At one point the left side cover came off and was chewed up by the chain and sprocket.
Rain cover storage on each saddlebag
The attached straps for the trunk are neatly tucked away at each corner on the bottom.  The rain cover for the truck is stored inside the trunk, but does not have a designated storage area.  The trunk's rain cover worked fine.  It was easy to place on the trunk and secured with the elastic band sewn inside, although the cover needed to be pulled tight and tucked under the back side of the trunk.
Truck straps tuck into pockets on each corner, loops for alternative securing are provided
The bags are well made and a good value for the price.  The visibility is top-notched.  The mounting and securing is easy and convenient.  If you don't ride much in the rain these are great economical bags.

The rain covers are a big negative to the bags.  First off, I don't understand why you cover hi-viz bags with black at a time when visibility is even more important - in the rain!  Second, the lack of options to tighten and secure the cover is a great oversight.

I think the company has a good product, but needs to make some changes to make it an above average product.