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.

GuffyRocks

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.

Truck

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.

Guzzi

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.

romper

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.

LauraInside

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.

RickStaplingDollar

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.

SoftailCustom3

Or maybe another Fat Boy.

FatBoy

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.

LonesomeDove

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

Of anger rides and love songs

When I missed Laura I used to go on an Anger Ride. Jump on my Harley and roar on the I-way for a while.

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The Don used to call it a rage ride. He loved doing it in the middle of the night, when it was just him and the truckers and the road.

 

 

 

 

 

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Best bike for an anger ride was my 2002 Deuce because it only had 5 gears and at 90 mph it was loud. A few hours of that would fix me right up. The V-twin version of electro-shock therapy.

 

 

 

Over the years I mellowed.

So tonight, as I lie awake in a hotel room in a small town outside Stockholm, instead of trying to find a way to rent a Harley for a rage-on through Sweden, I’m listening to music.

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I can imagine Laura saying “No! Rent the Harley! Go rent the Harley!”

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great romantic songs of the pop era is Unchained Melody. Its lyrics were written by Hy Zaret and put to music by Alex North. Sung by the Righteous Brothers, they’re spellbinding:

Turns out several artists, including Roy Orbison and U2 have tried to record it. Sorry. Great musicians that they were, they all failed compared to the Righteous Brothers. Here they are if you want to decide for yourself:

I looked up several lists of the best love songs of 2017, but I didn’t listen to any of them. I didn’t want to ruin the afterglow from Unchained Melody. We don’t express ourselves like we used to. We retreat from excellence as it were a rattler on the trail. Maybe we’re afraid of trying and failing. That’s not surprising, since social media never leaves our Left shoulder, a worse censor than the most ardent prude Hollywood ever had to endure.

I don’t care.

Give me eloquence. Give me beauty. Lend me expressions that warm my hear and make me take a long, slow breath or two.

Test of audio recordings

Testing these audio files for So Long John Wayne:

Light Peruvian accent

  • Chapter 1 – part 1

  • Prologue

American accent

  • Prologue

Terrible Boston accent (for Carol)

  • Prologue

Softer Boston accent like I imagine Danny from Lunenburg would read it

  • Prologue

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.

FrontRange

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.

OMR

Against the Wind

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There I was.

Somewhere in the Southwest.

Riding into a 30 mph headwind.

Again.

My teeth grit.  The ligaments on my neck popping.  My arms gripping the bars with the desperation of a monkey losing a tug of war for a clump of bananas.  Between the wind, the engine vibration, the lumpy road, and the semis passing me, my brain was turning to mush.

Little did I know the damned wind would push and shove me the whole way to Cortez.  And then to Tropic.  And Zion.  And Death Valley.  I would get a brief tail wind on 395, and then it would be all headwinds again all the way to Los Gatos.  I wouldn’t have minded, except that I didn’t have a windshield.

MightyKIt’s not that I’m opposed to windshields on principle.  It’s that they suck.  There have been exceptions.  Like the Mighty K.  A 2004 BMW K1200RS.  My summer fling while living in New England.  I’d dropped into a BMW dealership to keep a friend company, and I was smitten.  The faster that thing went, the better the wind flowed around me.  The Mighty K would have been ideal for the West.

Since I violate the Harley uniform guidelines by wearing earplugs and a big old Arai 3/4 helmet, Harley fairings and windshields rattle my eyeballs.  On account of that acoustic effect that occurs when the kids open the window in the back seat.

You ‘re too sensitive

Tyler Durden muttered in my ear before asking the Service Manager at San Jose Harley if he had any rope.

We’d stopped there to install a new set of tires since I’d worn my old ones down to the nubs.  It took a couple of hours on account of the rear wheel on the Softail Custom is a bear to get on and off.  The first time I changed my own I threw a lot of tools around the garage before I managed to fit that 200 mm tire in between the brake caliper and everything else that’s in the way.  Ever since, I’ve allowed the dealer to enjoy that particular pleasure.

While I was waiting, I wandered into the showroom, which is why the dealerships locate it  next to the Service Department.  A dozen shiny new touring Harleys, developed as part of Project Rushmore (a nod to the rebirth of the Indian Motorcycle Company), were lined up beside each other, sparkling.  Harley claims that Project Rushmore improved the notoriously bad airflow around the new touring bikes, among other things.RoadToad

Baggers are for for babies

Tyler would know.  That’s my 2004 Road Toad.  My first attempt at improving wind and comfort on long rides.   The fairing was as big as it looks in the picture. Maybe bigger.

The salesman ignored Tyler and pointed out the appeal of the Street Glide.  It’s a bonafide touring bike, he explained, but it’s still cool, like a 1969 Lincoln with suicide doors.

Tyler tied a knot into the rope the service manager had requisitioned for him.  While he did that, I thought about telling the salesman that when I want breakfast, I pound my fists against my chest and my woman brings me breakfast.  But the truth is, I’m the one who makes the coffee in the morning, both with cream, hers without sugar.  I gently wake her with the aroma.  Then we sit on the bed and talk about our feelings.

“Why don’t you take it for a test ride?”  The salesman asked, handing me the keys.

All salesmen must die

“Oh, I couldn’t,” I said sheepishly, ” I still have to ride my bike back to Colorado.”

2014-harley-davidson-electra-glide-ultra-classic-explicit-pictures-photo-gallery_2“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve shipped a bike back home,” the salesman said as Tyler yanked on the kickstand of the first touring bike.

It toppled onto the silver one next to it, but the second bike was so massive it managed to hold up the first one.

Undaunted, Tyler walked to the other side of the lineup, lifted the Red Sunglo and Vivid Black Ultra Glide Limited off its sidestand, and pushed it over.  This time it worked.  Like a stack of dominoes, one 900 lb Project Rushmore behemoth after another toppled onto the one beside it until they hit the first two, which almost, almost managed to hold up the pile, but in the end gave in and toppled over with a loud crash.

Now you have room to get some real motorcycles in your store

Tyler handed the keys back to the salesman, who accepted them, standing there, as stunned as the sales manager who had just run out of his office.

That day’s distance from Springdale, Utah to Stovepipe Wells, in Death Valley, was 433 miles.  Elapsed time was 8 hours, including a one hour detour into North Las Vegas to get my expense receipts scanned, on account of Tyler made me blow that off before heading out.

The picture of the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited is courtesy of www.autoevolution.com.

GiG

Of Dust Bowl Okies and Hot Biker Mommas

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That picture of me is the last time I was cool.  And I don’t mean James Dean cool.

Turns out, James Dean was killed not far from Paso Robles, where Route 46 and Route 41 intersect.  The Texaco station at the intersection of Route 46 and Route 33 has the whole story.  They say it was the last place he stopped before his wreck.  They also have a re-created Dust Bowl truck in a display among the pistachios, walnuts, and maple-covered almonds.  They found it somewhere, cleaned it up, added the utensils and other items the Okies carried, and brought it into the store.  They even had a picture of the same truck to guide their efforts.

Looking over the old truck and reading about the difficulties the people fleeing the Dust Bowl endured, I felt like a wimp for whining about the harsh suspension and non-existent wind protection of my Softail Custom.  They even had a statue of Grannie holding a plate of cookies.  She would have made a good biker Momma.

Missus Fender Bunny is a good biker Momma, too, though I’m not 100% certain that’s what she aspires to.  Why I subject her to such abuse I’ll never know.  I’ll ask my priest, if he’ll still speak to me.

It was 108 when we got to Baker, California.  When she pulled off her helmet, I could see that she was suffering from heat exhaustion.  We got in the shade and sipped a little warm water.  Wet her scarf and put it over her head.  After a while we went inside to enjoy the A/C.  You have to be judicious with the A/C, or when you walk back out, it feels like a furnace.  After a while she started looking better, so she stood up, clapped her hands, and bought a can of Red Bull.

When we got back on the bike it was 109.  Did I mention that she has relatives in Oklahoma?

We rode from San Simeon to Las Vegas in just under 12 hours.  Total mileage was 420 miles, more or less.

GiG

 

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway

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Riding the PCH would be a sportbiker’s dream if you weren’t afraid of flying off the edge of the road and plummeting to your death against the rocks a thousand feet below.  That’s a lot of time to think.  And wonder, as you spin around the bike and the bike around you, whether you still have a chance to make it, and whether that tiny chance could be increased by landing with the bike beneath you or, since it’s likely to explode in a yellow ball of skin-searing flame, whether you should push it away from you now, while you still have a chance to land a prudent distance from it.  In the end you don’t push it away from you, because holding on to anything, even a motorcycle tumbling through the air, is more comforting than facing a horrifying death alone.  Which makes you wonder, the last instant before you hit the rocks, whether there is indeed a God, and whether he is kind enough to forgive you for not having believed in him.  Or Her.  It had better not be a Her on account of that Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned thing.

No, the PCH is best taken at a measured pace.  So you can stop and enjoy its hidden treasures, like the cove in the picture above.  And take the time to thank God for making Her world such a pretty place.  Just in case.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Death Valley

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I left Stovepipe Wells at 5:50 am.  I had to cover 500 miles, so I promised myself I wouldn’t stop for pictures.

I had taken a bunch on the way in, anyway, including the one of the Devil’s Cornfield, above.  The cornfield lies at 150 feet below sea level, and the road keeps going downhill from there.

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The road from Stovepipe Wells heads more or less West, and straight up.  Stovepipe Wells is at sea level.  If you get there from the East, like I did, you’ll get to almost 300 feet below sea level.  I couldn’t stop imagining whales and schools of yellow fin swimming in the air over my head.

tollroad_smAnyway, once you leave Stovepipe Wells and head West just after the toll road in the pic, it’s straight up.  No curves.  Just up.  Until you hit 4500 feet above sea level.  At which point, if it’s 6:00 am, you realize how cold it is.  I stopped and put on some warm gear.

Turns out, Death Valley is actually two valleys.  Once you get up to the top of the West valley, you get to go down it.  It is blessed with a 9% grade.

You’re probably not that interested in the algorithm for calculating the amount of fuel left in a Harley’s gas tank, but to give you a rough idea, when I hit the top of the ridge between the valleys, my gauge indicated 72 miles left in the tank.  Five miles later, when I hit the bottom of the second valley, I magically had 113 miles worth of fuel.

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The road leading out of the second valley is a sportbiker’s dream.  Beautiful curves.  But I was distracted by the vistas.  The sun was peeking over the East ridge, lighting up just pieces of the landscape around me, leaving others dark.  To make it even more interesting for somebody who hadn’t sworn off photography for the day, the sky to the West was dark grey.  So the sun lit up the desert in front of me, making the Joshua trees pop.  It was gorgeous.

I wasn’t able to post last night because here, in Silicon Valley, the wifi is slower than in the middle of Nowhere, Utah.  The farmers in Wenatchee ship their best apples to other states, where they’re more precious.  I suppose Silicon Valley exports most of the broadband it grows, too.

Total distance 524 miles, including about 30 extra because somebody missed a turn.  Elapsed time: 11 hours.  Will post more about Zion and other parts of the trip when I can find some bandwidth.

GiG