Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Return from MOA - Riding through Colorado & Texas

My stop in Greeley CO culminated in a nice dinner with another woman rider I know from one of the riding forums. Checking my e-mail that night, another friend, who is following this blog, reminded me that Greeley was where she had her motorcycle accident a year ago. I had forgotten about that. I rode right through that very same intersection where she rear-ended a fast-stopping vehicle. We are all very glad that she survived this incident inharmed (ATGATT) and the bike could be repaired so that she could continue her trip.

The next morning, before getting on the road, I checked my e-mail again and learned that some edits were needed to a webpage that I maintain for a non-profit fund-raising event. So I made those edits and finally got on the road around 9:15 Am.

Just a few miles east of Greeley I ran into construction that had the road down to one lane. The delay was about 15 minutes which, added onto the delay getting out of the hotel this morning, might delay my meeting with another woman rider down at Bents Fort National Park. I told her I'd call her when I got within 100 miles, so this should be okay. Once "sprung" from the construction delays, I was able to move along quickly towards Brush CO, where I'd turn south onto US-71. I've ridden 71 before, so know what to expect. It's wide open, passing through wheat and corn for miles and miles, with no towns to slow me down.

Once I arrived at Limon CO, I called my friend to give her an ETA for Bents Fort, and then got onto I-70 east. I had an AMA Grand Tour photo op just a few miles east, in a town called Genoa. Obviously, this would be for the "Italy in America" Grand Tour. On MS Streets & Trips and on Google Earth, it looks to be a decent little town. Heck, it even has a post office, so it can't be too dinky. Ha! Once off the interstate, both my GPS and the sign toward the "business district" were telling me to turn left onto a sand and gravel road. This can't be right! But there didn't appear to be any options. This was out in the middle of nowhere, on flat prairie, with no other roads visible. So I turned onto the road and followed it toward a cluster of low buildings and run-down houses.

At what appeared to be the "center" of town, the GPS told me to turn right. Ahead I could see that the sand road became paved for a stretch of two blocks and, there on the right, was a very old a sad looking post office. I stopped, got my AMA towel out and arranged it on the bike for the photo of bike, towel, and post office. There was not another person in sight. Mission accomplished, I continued to the end of the block and turned right, off the short two-block section of paved road and onto sand roads again. I carefully worked my way back to the little county road at the interstate and returned back to Limon.

Passing through Limon on the way out to Genoa, I spied a KOA campground. These are worth points for both the AMA tours I'm doing. It was right next to a gas station, so I filled up, posed the bike for the KOA photo, and then continued down US-71 toward La Junta and Bents Fort. I will add here that for the last two days, I have been very cautious about keeping my gas tank topped off. Gas stations are few and far between on the roads I've been traveling. Today would be no exception.

I arrived in La Junta, followed the GPS to Bents Fort, and arrived there at around 2:00 PM. Genia was there waiting for me. We walked to the Fort from the parking lot, where we took a quick tour of the buildings and then visited the bookstore - my favorite place to spend money! By now it's very hot, forecasted to be 100 degrees, and I was hungry! We rode east to Las Animas and had lunch at DQ. With ice cream for dessert, of course! Genia tells me that the large birds I was seeing scurrying across the roads in ND and Montana were most likely pheasant hens, based on my description of how they would scurry upright across the road on stout legs.

We rode together to Lamar, where Genia split off towards home in KS and I continued south on US-287. Thank you, Genia, for a great visit and nice break in the middle of a long hot day of riding.

I made excellent time heading south to TX, even hitting the road construction with one lane just right, so that my delay was only about 10 minutes (compared to this same stretch of road on my outbound leg, which delayed me 30 minutes in the heat of the day). I made fast tracks toward Amarillo, where I'd planned to stop for the night.

The road construction had the same effect on traffic - bottleneck - that it did when I passed through here a few days before. Cars and trucks were badly bunched up, and moved at quite a bit less than the speed limit with lots of accordion-effect going on. Very unsafe!! I couldn't help but notice a State Trooper parked on the side of the road in the opposite direction and now know why he was there. As we moved south after getting through the construction, there was a lot of passing and jockeying going on. A large black pick-up truck decided to start passing a long line of 18-wheelers and cars and got past a couple of them before entering a no-passing zone. The terrain is gently hilly so the passing zones are relatively short. But he continued in the left lane as we went up a hill and I held my breath, waiting for the head-on collision to occur. He managed to squeeze himself into a tiny space between two 18-wheelers...but just barely.

Remember the State Trooper I saw a few miles back?? A few moments later, I saw him working his way around the traffic behind me with his lights on. He was after that pick-up truck. And he got him. So now I know what that trooper is doing. He's intentionally sitting there waiting for the bolus of cars and trucks to come through, all bunched up after the construction zone. He knows that drivers will take risks and chances just to break away from all of the bunched up vehicles.

The pack eventually broke apart as more passing zones and third lanes appeared, but it took many, many miles. As the sun got low in the sky, the temperatures moderated some, which was a tremendous help. I love the late afternoon light, which gives everything a warm glow. I made good time from Boise City, where I stopped for gas, and arrived in Amarillo at 9:00 PM.

Last day:
I was in no hurry to get on the road for my final day of this trip. I wanted to arrive in Houston after 7:00 PM, to miss the rush hour traffic. I checked the weather, knowing that Houston would be feeling the outer rain bands from hurricane Dolly. I would ride into rain, but am used to it, so there were no concerns or worries.

I was packed and headed out of Amarillo by 9:15 AM or so, and took US-287 southeast toward Fort Worth. There were no surprises, just lots of open prairie with a chain of small towns strung along the highway. I had lunch in Wichita Falls, and ate a surprisingly good slice of pizza at the C-store at a Shell station. I guess I'd been eating so much bad food on this trip, that anything tastes good at this point!

As I got near Buffalo, I could see the cloud build-up on the south horizon, which grew larger and darker the closer I got to Houston. I opted to stop and fill the tank up one more time in Buffalo, even though I still had 1/2 a tank or more, but this would ensure I wouldn't have to stop and gas up in the rain, once close to Houston.

I rode into the rain as I approached Conroe. It would rain hard for a couple of miles, then I ride out of it onto dry pavement. It continued this way down to Beltway 8 near the airport, then stayed dry all the way to within 3 miles of my house, where I rode into another band of rain. But...I'm nearly home!

2008 BMW MOA Rally trip is done!
Miles: 3995
Total Days: 9
Travel days: 7
Average miles ridden per travel day: 571 miles
Longest day: 720 miles in 13.5 hours

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