God Bless Guffey

Guffey is one of those rare places where strange and wonderful things happen that you can’t quite explain but you know they happened because part of you keeps vibrating long after, like an aluminum bat that you whack against a light pole. And if you’re not convinced, stare for a while at the rocks around Guffey. Stare at those rocks long enough and you will start to believe that after the sun goes down druids come out from their secret entrances, gather in the open spaces, and howl like wolves during the full moon. Which is probably tonight.

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Guffey is in the middle of nowhere, a plus for motorcycle rides because it takes a while to leave the city behind. And, to appreciate the kind and friendly people of Guffey, you need to make sure the city is way the hell behind you.

The Bull Moose has closed. On sunny Sunday afternoons Missus Fender Bunny and I sometimes danced among the locals on the big back deck. But the Coronas at Freshwater remains open, and the Guffey Garage always has a treasure or two lying around.

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It was remarkably warm for March 7, but the high country was still in the 40’s when the usual suspects, Po Po Rada, Jace the Affable, Bad Ray and Andrea the Pillion, plus Steampunk Risk and BananaShana, led Missus Fender Bunny and me through the canyons and up into the mountains.

Missus Fender Bunny and I ride slow nowadays, so we were able to appreciate the iced-over river beside the road, and how a narrow stream of water slithered over the ice for a spell before sinking back under and rising again down the road a ways. River snakes. A tiny bit of the mountain magic you miss if you’re not paying attention.

One of the joys of stopping at Deckers, besides how warm the sun is, is listening to all the bikes ride past and hoping the cool ones pull in to the parking lot so you can talk to the owner. The first bike I noticed ride past was a KTM. Exactly which one, I dunno, but it sounded good, like most KTMs.

Then my heart stopped. Something else was behind the KTM. I couldn’t quite make it out in the sun, but if Phil Collins possessed a moto the way demons are ‘sposed to possess people, the bike Mister Collins possessed would sound like that. I was spellbound. As it passed I realized it was Moto Guzzi’s new V85TT.

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Wow. That soulful pounding stayed with me until the Guzzi disappeared behind the next curve.  I glanced at my trusty but tame ’11 GSA that cooked my meals and washed my laundry without complaint and knew I had sinned in my heart the way happily married men sin in their hearts when Scarlet Johansen makes them think they make her laugh.

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“If you have already sinned in your heart, why don’t you just go ahead and sin in your pocket book?”

That was the Devil on my left shoulder. Yeah. No. But don’t let me stop you. If you want to sin in your pocket book, you can read all about Moto Guzzi’s TT on Motorcyclist.

After warming up in Deckers we rode on to Woodland Park. While we were gassing up in Woodland Park our motley crew decided that, instead of continuing on to Guffey, they would hit the Neiman Marcus sale on men’s rompers before all the cute colors were gone.

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They scrambled onto their bikes and hurried back to the city. Missus Fender Bunny and I pressed on toward Guffey.

The road to Guffey is best taken slow. A measured pace reveals cows eating hay on the pastures painted gold by the afternoon sun. Horses with their muscular necks stretched all the way down to reach the hay their owner had dumped on the warm side of the barn. And llamas looking around in their pens, wondering why nobody speaks Spanish around these parts.

Como? Que cosa?

The cows, the horses, the llamas, and the pretty hills all around have a way of restoring your soul to its God-given groove.

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If you don’t decide to stop right THEN, and not any later, as you crest the ridge above the town of Guffey, you miss the glorious view of the Sangre de Cristos, one of the most majestic mountain ranges in America. We managed to pull over, even though there wasn’t much of a shoulder.

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Next time I’m taking my good camera, dangit. If you squint at this picture you can see the Sangres. Wish I could have pulled them in with a good telephoto lens.

 

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Once in town we skirted the Guffey Garage and took a Right. Then we took a Left on Cañon street, rode past the Post Office and the Rolling Thunder Grill and took another Left on 8th street. We stopped at The Corona’s at Freshwater, which is where the fun began.

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While Laura went inside to freshen up, I walked toward the bikes and trikes parked across the street. As I was inspecting the heavy metal, a really big guy in a watch cap approached me and asked me what I was up to.

I can’t stop staring at Harleys.

He smiled. What are you riding? I pointed to our bikes parked around the corner all by their lonesome.

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Oh hell no.

That just won’t do, he said. Then he put his big arm around my shoulder and invited me to follow him inside.

The Freshwater is a rustic place with a welcoming feel. Not too many of those around, any more. Some of the newer places try to imitate the real thing, but they can’t pull it off because they don’t have the right people inside.

About a dozen veterans had ridden over from Colorado Springs and taken over the joint. By the time I walked in Missus Fender Bunny had announced to the room that she needed a hug and the vets were lined up, giving her hugs one after the other, some getting in line twice, the waitress patiently winding around the embraces to deliver burgers and fries.

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You know how with some people you don’t even need to be introduced, you’ve just known them all your life? That’s how it was with the veterans and their wives. In a matter of minutes they were informing me that I could sit in the backwards chair as my service in the Chair Force only counted for 2/3, and I was splainin’ them that somebody needed to be smart enough to save their grunt asses from the Taliban. Or, for some of them, the Viet Cong.

I’m not really sure whether we actually did stand on the tables and sing verses of our respective service songs at each other or whether I just imagined it, we’re talking about Guffey after all, but before we knew it, we were  swapping stories about life in the service like old friends and the grill had become twice as big as it had been when we first walked inside.

It was decided that Missus Fender Bunny and I were riding with them to Cañon City and the Springs, and that was that. Before we left, each of us took turns stapling a dollar bill to the ceiling. Accustomed to this mountain tradition, we obliged.

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Kindly forgive the neck torque, but I need to make a note about Evos. I’ve owned two Evo Softails. The Evo is favorite sounding Harley motor. Something about the Evo’s lope is lovely and it tops even the Twin Cam’s lope. But the two I owned and every other Evo I have test ridden or sat on vibrated terribly. In 30 minutes my hands would invariably go numb.

I noticed that the 99 Heritage a veteran named George was riding had steel grips. Most Evo Softails, because they’re solid-mounted to the frame (instead of rubber-mounted), have rubber or leather grips with tons of foam or other material to dampen the vibration. George’s Evo had steel grips.

Either you are the world’s toughest biker, or you have one smooth Evo.

I said to George. Instead of responding, he sat on his bike, pulled out the choke, and fired it up. At idle it vibrated plenty, of course. That’s part of the charm. But I rolled on the throttle and at what between 2,000 and 3,000 RPM, that steel grip was as smooth as the chrome on my Street Glide. Unbelievable. I’ve got to build me one, I decided. An EVO-powered Softail Custom.

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Or maybe another Fat Boy.

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Damn if he doesn’t look like my pal Darrin, from Cotopaxi!

Anyway, we rode with the vets into Cañon City along route 9. These guys were good riders. A mixed flock of Harleys, Gold Wings, Indians, trikes, and what not. Plus Missus Fender Bunny on her Honda and me on the betrayed GSA. I’m not a fan of riding in formation, but these guys knew how to do it right. And do it well. We kept a good pace and, when traffic separated us, they got everyone back together as smoothly as an experienced wrangler gets strays back in line on a cattle drive.

Which reminds me, if you haven’t seen Lonesome Dove, see it.

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We hung out a bit in Cañon City, exchanged warm good-byes, and mounted up and headed toward the Springs through some back roads that were new to me. In the Springs we split off and went our own way, Missus Fender Bunny and me full of good feelings for the veterans and, once again, without fail, for Guffey.

GodBlessGuffey

KTM 690 Enduro Maiden Voyage

 

I heat-cycled my new 2017 KTM a couple of weeks ago on the ride home from the dealer. Today I took it for its maiden voyage on the trails.

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I’m 63 and have about 350,000 miles under my belt on cruisers, touring bikes, and sport bikes.

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I have ridden dirt bikes, too, but I never put in the time to get better than barely competent. The Call of the Asphalt, so to speak.

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in English class, that’s a Jack London reference. Buy the book:

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Although I rely on technique while on the asphalt, I’ve always ridden dirt bikes by instinct. In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing. On top of that, I tend to freak myself out over stupid things. Like mud. And sand. And boulders. Cliffs, too, if they get too close. Riding the twisties fast on a Ducati is a form of meditation. So is cruising Route 50 across Nevada on a Harley. But dirt scares me.

I’m trying to remedy that with the KTM. Partly out of respect for the bike, partly because I’m at that age when I need to rely on technique. So today I focused on weighting the outside peg while turning.

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The terrain wasn’t always cooperative, but I got in a little practice, and it’s starting to feel less awkward.

Mudholes, which I couldn’t get a picture of because I was too busy staying upright, scare the heck out of me.  Especially when they have huge truck tire tracks running through them. Not only does the mud take turns grabbing and letting go of your tire, but the tracks make you pay when you cross them. I rode through a couple of sections that were each about 100 yards long, and somehow emerged in one piece. I hate mud!

A great deal of credit goes to the KTM. I’m not qualified to do a review of this bike, but here’s what I noticed on today’s compared to other cheaper dirt bikes I’ve owned:

  • More stable through the sand, gravel, and mud
  • Wider (much wider) power band, so no need to force a shift at the wrong time.
  • Nimble for a 690.

I rode it mostly on jeep trails, with a little single track.

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The higher I got, the icier the water holes got. This one finally convinced me to turn around.

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Heart Attack Hill brought back memories. I used to race my daughter Beth to the top and do grenades until we couldn’t breathe. First one to collapse lost. It was at the midpoint of one of our conditioning runs. After that sprint, the rest of the run felt like a cakewalk. Whatever a cakewalk is. This is the lower part of the hill:

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It’s much easier on the KTM.

Great views from the trail. If you look closely (sorry for the bad picture quality, took it with an older iPhone), you can see the Denver skyline.

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Brr-Dam

OldColoradoCityIt was 16° F (-9° Celsius) when I left Perry Park at 7:45 this morning on my way to the Pikes Peak BMW Club meeting at Mother Muff’s Kitchen in Old Colorado City.

The Gear

Base layer for my torso was a thermal turtleneck from waaaaaaay back in the day.  The thing is warm, itchy, and indestructible.  Next was a thin cashmere V-neck sweater.  Cashmere is warm, soft, and can be had cheap at Jos A. Bank.  The combo is surprisingly warm, but leave the pipe and David Niven accent at home.

Over the top of the sweater I zipped up another old favorite, a fleece jacket from The North Face.  Finally, my trusty Klim.

I covered by bum and netheregions in the quick-dry UnderArmor motorcycle shorts, which are, oddly enough, cozy warm.  Then a pair of Hot Chilis.  Then a pair of casual BMW riding pants with the rain liner in.  Thermal socks.  Aerostich Combat Touring boots.

Under my Arai helmet but over my Klim jacket I worse a fleece balaclava, and just about pulled my back out making sure there were no leaks around the collar.  I put on an ancient pair of Dainese winter gloves, and turned the heated grips on my R1200RS to High.

Once you get all that gear on, the only cold weather hassle left is dealing with the fogging lens on your helmet.  Easy enough to manage, though: keep helmet open until you pick up some speed, and open it each time you slow down.  The RS has the stock shield, which directs plenty of air at my helmet, so that approach worked well for me.  Dealing with fogging would be more of a hassle on a bike with a full fairing.

The Ice Cream Headache

It was a sunny morning, but the Front Range was completely frosted over.  I didn’t take a picture, but this one is pretty close to what it looked like the entire route from Larkspur to Old Colorado City.

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http://sergiophoto.photoshelter.com

It took about 5 minutes for the ice cream headache to show up.  It wasn’t the worst I’ve had, but I did have to concentrate to get past it.  My setup had no air leaks anywhere, and the heated grips kept one side of my hands warm.  The topside did get a bit chilly, but never numb.  The tips of my thumbs went numb, and my feet felt about as chilly as the top of my hands.

The only other rider I saw was a guy in jeans and a hoodie riding his 600 home along I-25.  I wonder what the story was behind that early morning ride.

Mother Muff’s Kitchen

I felt immediately comfortable with the crowd from Pike’s Peak BMW club.  Craig, Lee, and Bex were kind enough to invite me to sit with them.  It’s always nice when the locals are friendly to the new guy.  Made me glad I rode up there.

Mother Muffs is the red storefront at the upper right:

MotherMuffs

By the time I left, temps had warmed up to the low 40’s, so I stowed my gear, slipped on my flip-flips and Hawaiian shirt, and rode home singing Gypsies in the Palace.  The temps in Larkspur were only 36°F by the time I got home (around noon), but it still felt downright tropical compared to the first part of the ride.

Old Colorado City somehow manages to hang on to its low-rent charm at the foot of Pikes Peak.  I always enjoy riding down there.

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Springer in the Moonlight

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The ride home from Palmer Lake normally takes 20 minutes, but at night I slow down so I can dodge the deer who like to play Spook The Biker along that stretch of 105.  That’s a perfect road for a Softail, and at 45 mph the ride lasts even longer.  The moon was out tonight, lighting up the edges of the clouds.  I’m scared of the dark.  Less so outside than inside.  But when the moon is out I am comforted by something that feels like the mother energy of goddesses.

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Photo courtesy of http://1000awesomethings.com/2010/04/14/527-the-night-before-a-really-big-day/

I’ve ridden Route 50 across Utah and Nevada a few times.  It’s always best on an FX Softail such as a Deuce, Night Train, Standard, Custom, or Springer.  I wish Harley would go back to designing elemental motorcycles like the FX Softails instead of putting all its energy into making its baggers more and more like cars.

I’ve traded my FX Softails for baggers so often I’ve come close to despair.  I always go back.  I love riding the FX Softails so much I want to ride them more.  So I trade them for baggers, which let you ride farther and longer.  But baggers are different.  Even the Road King, a Bagger Lite, is different.  The difference is subtle, but it’s important to me.

I’ve got an 05 Springer, now.  Instead of forcing it to do 600-700 mile days, I’m going to try something new.  I’m going to imagine being satisfied with 300 or even 200 miles days.  Ride the two lanes, not the highways.  Ride nice and slow.  And stop when I want to.

I’d like to ride the Springer under moonlight across Nevada’s Route 50 with that attitude.  Bucket list for sure.

GiG

Photo Blog: Following Missus Fender Bunny Up Mt Bierstadt

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It’s known as Colorado’s easiest 14er, but it’s still a 7-mile round-trip with a climb from about 11,400 to 14,000.  You actually have to descend a couple hundred feet before climbing back up, but who’s counting.  If you really care, see the map here:

Map of Mt Bierstadt

Three months ago Missus Fender Bunny, in her early 50’s, was released from an 11-day stay at the hospital weighing 98 lbs and unable to climb a set of stairs.  Since then she’s been doing about 30 minutes of weight lifting three times a week plus some calisthenics now and then.  Not what you’d call rigorous preparation for high-altitude trekking.

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Here she is on the part of the trail that descends from the road to the marshes.  Mt Bierstadt is the round mound on the top right of the picture.  The map said it was 3.5 miles away, but it felt a lot longer.  I googled “altitude factor” to see if there was a way to multiply mileage by elevation and ruggedness of terrain, and found this:

Altitude multiplier

It reads more like a gut-level multiplier than anything scientific, but made me feel better.

The lower part of the hike is a pleasant stroll through marshlands.

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After what feels like a mile but is probably less, you cross this stream …

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… and begin the ascent.  While climbing we met some really nice locals.

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We met a ship’s captain from Virginia who was recovering from open heart surgery.  He’d prepared quite a bit at sea level, and was having a blast hiking up the mountain with his son.  One couple kept me in stitches.  The guy was from Japan and full of exuberance, his companion was an American woman with a wicked sense of humor.  I heard the term “Coloradans” for the first time, but I assured her it was not a widespread trait.  We met more than one couple on their first date, which left Missus Fender Bunny in shock:

Are you kidding me???

One couple was hiking up with their 5 month old baby!

When’d you bag your first 14er, George?

The dogs were cool.  Lots and lots of dogs, but hikers were great about picking up after them.

The vistas from the other side of the river were cool.  Here’s a view across the marshes and the road:

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Missus Fender Bunny and I stopped for breakfast at a midway point that felt like it was another mile up the road, so it was probably just another 1/2 mile up the road.

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We stopped for secondsies a little higher up the trail.  And 11sies beyond that.

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After a long zig-zag up the shoulder, you reach a large field of tundra scratching out such a meager living between the rocks that it would have made the Koch Brothers weep with joy.

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This part of the hike feels kinda long since it keeps going and going.  Suddenly, you get to the ridge line and can look over the other side.

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At that point, if you have any sense of self-preservation, you take a Left and hike along the ridge line to the foot of the summit, where you are met with a wall of rock:

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This is one of the spots where your imagination takes over with vivid images of broken ankles, arms fractured backward at the elbow a la Steven Segal, and other reasons to turn back.  Which Missus Fender Bunny considered doing for a moment or two:

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But she’s a tough broad, and in spite of feeling a little queazy about scrambling up the bone-breaking, spine-shattering, skull-crushing rocks, she made it the rest of the way.

The summit is loads of fun because it’s full of friendly, happy people:

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We agreed to take photos of the couples up there only if they promised to flex.  They insisted on returning the favor:

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The hike down in the afternoon was spectacular, too:

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Given our level of conditioning, if we hadn’t stopped to take pictures or stop for meals or to chat with all the friendly people on the trail, we probably would have hated the climb, LOL.  It took us about four hours to get to the top, and about 3 to get back down.  Anyone who hikes regularly at altitude could cut down that time by quite a bit.  If they wanted to.  But why hurry?

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It was a real treat, and Missus Fender Bunny is already planning our 2nd 14er!

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GiG

The Rewards of Getting Up at O’ Dark Thirty

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I had to get out of bed at 5:00 am, dig out my gym gear in the dark so as not to wake Missus Fender Bunny, trudge down the long and steep driveway covered with a fresh 9 inches of snow under what I was certain was the hostile stare of a gang of juvenile mountain lions eager to prove their cat macho by taking down an old man for breakfast, dig the car out of the snow, scrape the ice off the windshield, and drive icy roads to get to the Y by 6:00 am. But the reward was recognizing, over the course of a few games, some of the guys who used to play ball with me back in the day and, once I walked out of the gym, taking in the glorious view of the Front Range, covered in snow under a bright blue early morning sky.

I didn’t have my camera with me, so I grabbed a picture I took in April a few years ago. It’s not of the entire front range, but it’ll give you an idea.

Gig

The Sky in Colorado

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

I first moved to Colorado in 1975 courtesy of the US Air Force.  I fell in love with the snow, became a ski bum, and considered my barracks at Lowry AFB my domicile, and A-Basin my home.  I was on the mountain as early in the season as possible, and as late into June as they’d let me.

I only discovered the spectacular beauty of a Colorado Summer when I returned in 1992.  The shot above, taken from our peeling, chipping, badly-in-need of repair deck, is a closeup of the bottom of an afternoon thunderstorm to the East of us.  Below is a picture of a second thunderstorm building to the North later that afternoon.

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Thunderstorm over Perry Park – full

And here is what it looks like when it’s directly overhead.

Thunderstorm directly overhead

Thunderstorm directly overhead

GiG