Monthly Archives: November 2020

A Ride to Medieval Times…sorta’

In the middle of October, we were having magnificent weather only a week after getting 9″ of snow. I left home on Thursday afternoon and rode down to Colorado Springs for a short visit with my son and his wife. They had just moved to the Springs from Montrose and I hadn’t seen their new home (or them!) since last year. The ride down was fairly easy except for a stretch of construction on I-25. Between Castle Rock and Monument, it’s called the Gap and is crowded and dangerous. But I was ahead of southbound rush hour traffic and didn’t have to stop.

The next morning I was joining a group of Motorcycle Sport Touring Association riders at Apex Sports, one of the best motorcycle dealerships in Colorado for a group ride.

It was still cold at Apex Sports at 9:30, but starting to warm up.

The ride leader was a bit late getting there because of how cold it had been during the night. It was 21F when he and another rider left Loveland (20 miles west of me on the west side of I-25) at 7AM. By the time they got Apex, it was up to 35 and by the time we passed Ft. Carson’s main gate, it was up 42.

The Wet Mountains from north of Penrose

You can click on this link to see a map of the ride on Spotwalla:

The Arkansas River bottoms north of Florence
USPS Supermax Prison
The Wet Mountains west of CO-67

We rode south on CO-119 to Penrose and Florence, the home of the Federal Supermax prison. From there we climbed toward Wetmore and then climbed into Hardscrabble Canyon on CO-96. The first time I had ridden Hardscrabble, I was on a bicycle. I’m here to tell you that it’s easier on a motorcycle. Hardscrabble has nice turns — no real hairpins, but a few turns barely over 30-35mph, and most 40-45.

Hardscrabble Canyon

10 miles from Wetmore at McKenzie Junction, we turned south on CO-165, an even better road than Hardscrabble Canyon. It’s a beautiful combination of sweepers, hairpins, elevation changes, and on this day in October, the best color we saw. 13 mile from the Junction, we arrived at our primary destination: Bishop Castle.

Bishop Castle
Our MSTA Ride Leader, Doug Logston

Bishop Castle is an eccentric monument, still being built by an eccentric man. Jim Bishop bought 2.5 acres of land for $450 when he was 15 years old 60 years ago. After a few years of clearing some parts of the heavy forest and getting married, Jim decided to build a cabin. Since there was so much stone, he decided to build his cabin out of stone. Then he started the Castle. In his travels around the state as an ornamental iron worker, he’d pick up stones. Since most of the places he got his stones were in National Forests, the government wanted him to pay for them. Bishop felt they were his for the taking; the government want him to pay for them by the truckload. That argument has been settled.

Then, as the castle started attracting tourists, Bishop put home-made signs along the road, directing people to the castle. Local and state government challenged his right to do that. The disagreement was settled by the state placing official signs.

Bishop and his wife were both diagnosed with cancer in ’14 and he made a friend the “Trustee” of the Castle. The “friend” immediately turned the Castle into “Castle Church of the Redemption.” The Bishops got into litigation with the friend and now their son is in charge of the Bishop Castle Foundation. Construction has slowed, but continues.

Just a trace of color still left along CO-165 north of Bishop Castle

From there we headed west on 96, climbing to the summit of Hardscrabble Pass at 9,085 feet. As we started down out of the Wet Mountains, a view of the Wet Mountain Valley about 2,000 feet below and the wall of Sangre de Christos Mountains just a few miles west of our destination in Westcliffe.

The Wet Valley and the Sangre de Christos. We could see mountains in the Collegiate Range, 80 miles away. Amazing visibility compared to what I’d have by the time I got to Denver!

We rode to a park on the south side of Westcliffe and had lunch. Even though we were at 7,000′, the sun and the very light winds let the temperature get up to 70F before we decided it was time to begin heading back towards our homes.

The Sangre de Christos SW of Westcliffe

I’d ridden from Westcliffe toward home several times. I’d never really checked for the shortest route, but had gone with my gut instinct that riding north out of Westcliffe on CO-69 to US-50 at Texas Creek, then 50 to Penrod, 119 to the Springs was the shortest and quickest way to go. The MSTA ride leader had planned on taking that route, too. But a 3rd rider who was heading back to the Springs told us we needed to go back the way we’d come from — Wetmore, Florence, Penrose. I didn’t mind that, because it was a magnificent ride either way and I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, that the same scenery from the opposite direction.

Back toward Colorado Springs on CO-119

Naturally, we got to Colorado Springs just as the afternoon rush hour started. But once we were a few miles north of downtown on I-25, things loosened up and we made good time home.

Topping the rise south of Denver was shocking! We’d been dealing with fires, but the smoke we could see then made it look like there must have been a huge fire about to sweep down onto the Denver Metro area. When I got home, learned that there was a new fire, aptly named the Troublesome Fire that had erupted 75 miles away. When I crossed I-70 on E-470 (the toll loop around Denver), I rode into thick, low-hanging smoke. The smoke got thicker until I reached I-25 again and then it eased some, giving me a sense of relief. That came because I’d been afraid that the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in state history and only about 55 miles from our house had exploded again. I’m writing this 6 weeks later and the fires have finally been reduced to just isolated hot spots. I wish I had still had my camera available when I saw that smoke over Denver. It was incredible and frightening. Smoke had been the theme of many of my summer rides.

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Back to Writing About Riding

The last writing I did on this Blog was the day after I finished my “Epic Post-Retirement Ride to Alaska, the Four Corners of the US, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador” on September 19, 2013. At the finish of the Epic Ride, my NT had had 78,949 miles on it.

I kept riding it and had figured that I’d ride it till either I died or it did…or until one of the other of us either couldn’t ride or be ridden any more.

We had several adventures since then. I finally did an Iron Butt Association Bun Burner Gold during the Rachel Insanity Days Rally in Nevada. The ride was in the middle of May of ’16. The organizers told us that the average high temperature in Nevada on the weekend of the 16th was 70F, the average low was 48F, and the average rainfall for the whole month of May was less than a half inch. Wrong! The high might have been 51, the low was 13, and I rode about 300 mile in rain. But I rode 1524 miles in 23 hours and 48 minutes!

I rode two of the Southern California Motorcycle Association’s Three Flags rides. I had a deer hit me at high noon on my way to a third Three Flags ride. That shattered my left hand and did $2700 damage to the bike. Then later in ’16, I had knee replacement # 6.

After that I lowered the bike an inch. For another year or so after that, I had trouble getting on and off the bike without dropping it until a friend shortened the sidestand some more.

I had a few mechanical issues that could have ended my bike’s useful life, but they ended up being fixed and as we got the spring of 2020, it was running like new and still not using any oil. With new tires I was ready to keep riding for a long time!

“Dudley” in February, 2020″

Lookin’ good … if you don’t look too close! But still running almost as good as new. I did a few short rides in the spring and then attended the ’20 ST/NT-Owners Rally in Spearfish.

And it wasn’t long after that when things changed suddenly. Joe Forstie, a friend from the NT-Owners forum posted about his new bike. He’d bought a Triumph 900 Tiger GT Pro and traded his ’10 NT for it. I’ve known Joe since ’12 and knew he maintained his NT the way the USAF used to maintain his KC-135s when he was driving them. I checked with Joe to see if he had lowered the bike. Since he has short, stubby little legs like I do, I was pretty sure he had. He confirmed that and I got on the phone with Empire Cycle in Spokane Valley, WA. Before I called, I knew that they were asking $4999 and that the bike was equipped the way I wanted it to be. Big lids – check. OEM undercowl – check. Topbox – check! A real cruise control – CHECK!!

I had decided before I called that I’d ask for new tires and that I would hope they’d give me something for my old bike as a trade-in. The sales manager instantly agreed to the tires. We talked about my bike and I told him the truth about some of its issues: non-working Rostra cruise control, barely-working pannier latches, high mileage. I sent him some pictures and an hour later he was back with an offer of $1500 trade-in to go with the tires.

I jumped on that offer and we decided that I’d be there to make the deal on July 20. On the night of the 18th, I went to bed early, went right to sleep, and then woke up an hour and a half later. Just like a little kid on Christmas Eve. I never went back to sleep, so finally got up and out of town at 7AM. I had two days to ride the 1050 miles, so I figured maybe I could get to Billings before I needed to stop. But I made it 877 miles without ever getting sleepy. A night in Missoula put me only 192 miles from the dealer. That gave me time to eat breakfast with a new NT owner and member of

Here’s a link to my ride to Spokane and back:

This is “Dudley,” my old bike after we got to Empire Cycles in Spokane Valley, WA

My “old” bike was actually built after the new bike. Dudley’s SN is #00079; the “new bike’s SN is #00063. They might have been built on the same day.

I got to Empire at 2PM and by 3, we’d done most of the paperwork and their service department was at work changing tires and swapping a few of my “keeper” items from the old to the new bike. Saddle, windscreen, GPS. Joe had ridden down to the dealership and by 5 we were ready to ride back to his house and then meet a couple of other NT owners for dinner. I learned very quickly that the new bike was barely possible for me to ride because the shift lever was too low for me to get my toes under. Empire’s owner said they’d get me back in after lunch. And that ended up with me buying a set of heated grips.

This is the new bike in Butte, MT

I got out of Spokane at 4PM and rode to Lewiston, ID, through the Palouse. This is a beautiful area of steep rolling hills that is the most productive wheat growing area in the country. Just a a couple of weeks later two little towns that had been within a few miles of my route were completely destroyed by fires.

A fuzzy look at the Palouse

My night in Lewiston turned out to be a mistake. I ate at the hotel’s restaurant and woke up in extreme “intestinal distress” that lasted all night. I finally got out of Lewiston and rode over Lolo Pass, along Lewis and Clark’s route to the Pacific. Shortly after going past the famous “Winding Road Next 99 Miles” sign, I passed one truck. About 30 miles later, I was passed by a Highway Patrolman on his way to a wreck. I rode 107 miles without passing or being passed by another vehicle!

The Clearwater River on the way to Lolo Pass.

I stopped in Hamilton and ate a light late afternoon meal and then headed on south on my way to Wisdom, passing the Big Hole National Battlefield where the Nez Perce tribe were attacked by US Calvary troops. The Nez Perce were trying to escape to Canada after their treaty rights had been violated. At the Big Hole, their small group of warriors held off the Calvary while their women and children escaped. They made it to the Bear Paw in Montana before finally surrendering.

All afternoon, the smoke got thicker and thicker. I wondered where it was coming from. Turned out to be California smoke.

Smoke from California south of Butte, MT

I spent the night in Butte without eating, but at 3:30 I was sick again. I had planned to ride to Red Lodge and spend the night there before riding Beartooth Pass and the Chief Joseph Highway and then US-14, 14A, and 16 in the Big Horns in Wyoming. The sickness caused me to cancel that. I finally started feeling pretty good east of Billings. I stopped in Buffalo, WY, and since I hadn’t eaten and was feeling decent, I ate a light meal…only to be sick again at 3AM. I got out of Buffalo at noon and rode home. I got here at 6:30. All the way from Buffalo, I kept playing one song over and over in my head: “Horse With No Name” by America. I think the bike was trying to give me a hint about his name.

“Horse” in August…getting used to his new home!

After I’d been home a bit, I started getting its disguises in place — the HMW stickers and the ST700 stickers — and some other stickers. I had it out in the driveway taking some pictures. I finished and put it back in the garage. Then I got in the car to move it back into the garage and SiriusXM was playing…you guessed it…”Horse With No Name” by America. That settled it!

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