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Archive for October, 2011

Pictures: Day 12, Oct 1: Antelope Island, UT – Jackson, WY

Full Report: Day 12, Oct 1: Antelope Island, UT – Jackson, WY

Day total: 318 miles
Trip total: 3840 miles

It was late last night. But I am woken up early by my eagerness to ride the motorcycle, to ride into new destinations. Or maybe it was the sun that woke me up; shining so bright I thought my tent was on fire… That could be to, but I doubt it.

I break down my cheap-ass tent and load the motorcycle. My Danish friends are still vast asleep. No sign of life there. I leave them a book about the national parks on the west-coast, since that is what they are heading for. I don’t need it anymore and it was given to me too by a fellow adventurer. It will do more benefit to the Danish than to me.

Once I am ready, it is time to make some miles today. We’re going to Jackson, WY today, gateway to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. But I have to ride some 300 miles before I get there. No problem, that is what we are here for in the end!

The causeway takes me off the extraordinary Antelope Island. I have to make a full stop at the exit of the park. I learned my lesson yesterday: I keep the visor of my helmet shut; hornets never sleep…

I head North. I pass by at Bear Lake. Some big giant beautiful lake, but to me, it is nothing more than a lake. Antelope Island has spoiled me and something must be truly miraculous to top that. I pass through some small towns, see some actually quite nice looking churches, but I don’t pay too much attention to them. Why? I am drastically looking for a Subway (the sandwich store), I need internet today. And since I am riding in the middle of nowhere, those are hard to find.

I finally find one, in Montpellier, ID. A small town as well, but at least it has a Subway. That means free Wi-Fi. Normally I couldn’t care less about internet, but today is the birthday of my grandmother. Being an adorable grandson, I need to call her obviously. So I do. She happy. Me happy. I decide to get lunch right away as well.

Today is my one and only day in Idaho. I’ve heard that Hwy 34 is quite nice. It runs from Soda Springs in Idaho to Freedom on the state border of Idaho and Wyoming. 60 miles of scenic beauty. 60 miles of sweeping roads. 60 miles of pure meditation. For me at least. There’s hardly any traffic, if you don’t count the cows on the road. I ride and ride, the Trophy is feeling at home. Sweeping corners, rolling hills, sweet views over wetlands and meadows. Aaaaaah. This is what we ride for. Don’t bother me now. The world could come to an end, I wouldn’t care. I ride. I enjoy. Idaho, I love you!

I continue my way, riding once again in Wyoming. But I would go back into Idaho today and I couldn’t wait. There’s a lot of motorcycles all over the place again. I turn left at Alpine Junction, and find myself behind a group of 4 or 5 motorcycles. Harleys and Goldwings. They seem to go the same way as I do and I follow them for about 45 minutes. It is always funny to see how motorcycles always try to team up on the road. I do the same. We ride along the coast of the Palisades Reservoir. A reservoir created to power a hydroelectric power plant. So much for the technical details. What matters more, is that it creates a beautiful shore line with a beautiful road! I stop quickly at the dam; turns out that all those other bikers stop there as well. We talk a bit, they take a picture of me, and I am on my way again.

I have one relatively small mountain pass to go before I reach my final destination. It is getting pretty late and with all the respect, while beautiful, the pass is not too much of excitement… I’m having more fun following some other bikers again going downhill from the top into Jackson.

I’ve reached my destination for today. Jackson is apparently some high-end resort place or so, but that’s not what I am here for. At night, all I need is dinner and a bed to sleep in. So, I eat and get ready for the next day. A big day. Yellowstone National Park. Mountains. Glaciers. Buffalos. Geysers. Moose. And many miles.

Pictures: Day 11, Sept 30: Rock Springs, WY – Antelope Island, UT

Full Report: Day 11, Sept 30: Rock Springs, WY – Antelope Island, UT

Day total: 308 miles
Trip total: 3523 miles

I need to make a decision today. Do I want to do a fantastic scenic ride right away? Or do I want to take the freeway first a little bit, so I have more time to spend on Antelope Island? I choose the latter. Antelope Island… I’d never heard of it. I just saw it on the map when I was planning my trip. I wanted to go to Salt Lake City forever. Why? Don’t ask me. Just one of those places. But then I saw Antelope Island. An island just off the coast near Salt Lake City. From that moment on, that little island was stuck in my mind. I had to go there!

So, freeway it is. Boring. As always. But I knew it would be worth it. Taking the freeway enables me to spend more time on Antelope Island. So off I go. Listening to the music in my helmet. Riding the boring freeway. The scenery is ‘nothing more’ than grasslands, with a little elevation to it.

My fuel gauge is telling me I have to fill up soon. After my little ‘running-out-of-gas’-adventure earlier, I listen for once to this gauge. I get to this huge truck stop, where it is fun to see my bike in between all those huge trucks. Makes the Trophy look like nothing… Anyhow, one of these truckers gets out of his ‘custom-and-way-over-the-top’-truck. “Nice bike”, he says. “Nice truck”, I replied, “want to trade?”. For some reason, he didn’t want to… I don’t know why.

Before I head into Salt Lake City, I take the UT-150 South. Nicknamed ‘The Mirror Lake Highway’. Being a photographer, how can I not ride this highway? It also turns out to be the highest paved road in Utah. Enough reasons to ride it!

The road starts to wind its way up into the mountains, the colors of the forest is beautiful, there’s no other traffic… It is awesome! The wind is blowing some leaves of the twigs; they fly at me like in the most realistic 3D movie. I feel like riding in a commercial or something. But I am not. This is real! Ha! Even better! Reaching the pass at 10.715ft (3.266m), I see the sign that says ‘Mirror Lake’. A little detour but what the heck…

Reaching the ‘Mirror Lake’, the ‘Mirror Lake Highway’, turns out to be the ‘not-so-Mirror-Lake-Highway’. It is windy. So much for the mirror-like reflections… It is still nice though, but I find myself on the road rather quickly again. I guess I am already spoiled after all the beauty that I’ve seen so far!

I make my way into Salt Lake City. And I make my way out of Salt Lake City. What a disaster! Having been in all beautiful wide open nature all those days before, being in a big city does not appeal to me. Not the least little bit. I want out. As soon as possible please.

Luckily, Antelope Island is not far away. Here the day really begins! Yes, you’ve already read this much and the day for me is only beginning just now! That makes a promise for the rest of this report haha…

To get to Antelope Island, you have to ride an 8-mile long causeway. It costs you a couple dollars to get into the State Park, which you have to pay near the beginning of the causeway. No problem. I stop. It is hot. I open up my helmet and my jacket, since it is freaking hot. I open up some other zippers of my jacket as well. And I close them as soon as I can again! This place is invaded by hornets! Big black-and-yellow nasty flying things! And they are everywhere! Sometimes it sucks to be on a motorcycle…

Anyhow, I pay the entrance fee, and get the last available camp site. The regular campsite is full, so I get a place on the group site. Fine with me. I might have to share. Fine with me too. I might have to share with busloads of scouts and young kids. A little less fine with me, but still fine. I just want to get away from these freakin’ hornets!

But as soon as I am on my way, it is all worth it. The causeway provides me with amazing scenery, with water on both sides, and tremendous views on Antelope Island and Salt Lake City. As I get closer to the island, I get more and more excited. It is so beautiful!

Antelope Island. Antelope. And what is the main attraction? Right, Antel… No! Buffalo! I still wonder why it is not called Buffalo Island. I see some in the far distance already. But having skipped lunch, I need to eat something first. I get to this little restaurant right next to the beach. Looks perfect to me. Still open? Yes, still open. I get inside and the lady behind the counter recommends me a buffalo burger. Why not. Bring it on. As I am waiting for my buffalo burger, I start to talk with the, with all the respect, older lady. Gardner is her name. Judy Gardner. I am surprised she is doing everything herself; taking the order, the financial transaction, preparing the meal, etc. That must be quite busy some times. So I ask her. “yes,” she says, “I had some help, some youngsters, but they don’t care. They work here for two weeks and simply don’t show up for work anymore”. So she had to do it all herself. Respect. She invested all her pension money into it. One day long ago, she toured the island, was hungry, but didn’t find a place to eat on the entire island. And so she began this little grill place. The amount of energy she has doesn’t even match me after my daily energy drinks… It is unbelievable. I can taste it in the burger. It tastes great, and it comes with a free view!

After I am not so hungry anymore, I tour the island. Wow. That’s all I can say. Wow. The smile on my face, I can’t wipe it off. The view, the buffalos, the road, the weather… Just everything falls into place. What an amazing little island! The buffalos are everywhere, my camera is doing overtime. There’s a road up to 23%. Now that’s steep! Especially the way down. It is simply amazing!

When reaching my campsite, I’m holding my breath. Remember all the scouts and kids I was told about? Nowhere to be found! Only a little tent on my campsite, but as said, that’s fine with me. All I do anyway is sleep and leave early the next morning. I set up my site, and the sky is inviting me to take some pictures. It is so clear, and there’s so little ‘light-pollution’ that you can see many, many stars. And when I say many, I mean many  times two. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way that clear! I also discover that I have a lot of fun keeping the shutter of my camera open, and trying to write my name into the picture with a flashlight… Don’t judge my writing skills please when you see the result!

A little later, a car shows up. It is the ‘other’ people, from the tent that was already there on the site. Turns out to be Danish people, two youngsters from 20 and 21. They went out to get some beer… I already like them! They started their trip in New York, and went down to the Keys in Florida. From there, north to Chicago to head west to San Francisco. And I thought I was doing a lot of miles… The rest of the night I’m chatting with them, drinking their beers. They refuse to accept any money for it…

It seems like a perfect night to camp. Look how I write the word ‘seems’. Because all of a sudden, out of the blue, while talking with the Danish people at the picnic table, the wind picks up. Like a lot. Not just a little breeze, no. Within 5 seconds, my tent is upside down. Because I thought, being stubborn, I didn’t need to secure it. After all, there was no wind right? Right. Not so… And as soon as the wind came, the wind was gone again. Sweet! I anchor my tent into the ground, making sure it wouldn’t happen again. So… Time for some more beers I would say!

I made it! New York City!


Pictures: Day 10, Sept 29: Laramie, WY – Rock Springs, WY

Full Report: Day 10, Sept 29: Laramie, WY – Rock Springs, WY

Day total: 273 miles
Trip total: 3215 miles

I’m up early today. I first thought today would become a true getting from A-to-B day. Turned out to be that I was very wrong…

I head on west from Laramie. West? Shouldn’t I be driving east? Yes, I should, that would make sense. But I decided to head back to Salt Lake City. I wanted to see Antelope Island there and from there on it is up north to Yellowstone National Park. But to get there, I had to make a whole loop, adding approximately 1.600 miles to my original plan! Well, I don’t see why I shouldn’t do it!

So I head west indeed. The road leads me into the Snowy Mountains. I wonder how they came up with that name… Anyhow, what’s that, running along the road? A deer? No… An elk? No… It is different. Its head is colorful. It’s an antelope! Ha! And the GoPro camera captured it.

All excited as I am about the antelope, I ride into the Snowy Mountains. It is a relatively small mountain range. I guess that’s why there’s nobody there. No one. No nothing. Nada. On the mountain pass there’s nothing but absolute quietness. No sounds of cars. No airplanes. No people. No animals. No wind. Surreal. It is so peaceful.

I continue my way, the road winds its way down. The Trophy has no problem in finding its path. I ride. I have fun. I go pretty fast. Suddenly, a sign that says ‘Mirror Lake’. I turn my head quickly and see this pristine lake, reflecting the image of the mountains. But I’m too late. I’m already passed it. But my curiosity takes over. I have to see that lake. Full-on brakes. Mirror Lake, here I come!

So glad I turned around. It is just a lake, I know. But I love reflections in the water! Plus it is simply a freakin’ awesome little lake. I find myself spending an hour here or so. Some amazing pictures are the result.

I said it before, but I am amazed by the diversity that you can see in one day here when it comes to the nature. I rode in the mountains with snow this morning. Next thing I know, I ride in the desert. It is hot. Super hot. I am happy when I come across a gas station in a little place, the type of ‘god-knows-where’-town. Soon, I will be riding a dirt road, so I decide to lube the chain of the Trophy a bit extra, to protect it from what to come. I try to put the Trophy on the center-stand, but I can’t. It is too heavy. Have to unload the thing… Well that’s not going to kill me, although it gets close; I’m seriously overheating here!

Anyhow, I lube the chain, rotate the tire and the chain, and am about to put all my luggage back on. But what the hell is that shiny thing there, sticking out of my tire? Well be damned, there’s a freaking nail in my tire! Tire pressure is still good though, so it must have happened just now. I can feel air leaking though, and knowing I am going onto a dirtroad in the desert, that is not a very comforting thought.

Lucky as I am though, there’s a auto repair center right next to the gas station! Ha! Can you believe that! For those 2 cars they have here… The guy working there is very helpful though and within 5 minutes he has the nail out, sealed the leak, and the tire is ready to go again. I ask him how much I owe him. “eeeh let’s say $5”, he says. I give him $10. Keep the change. Thanks for your help amigo!

The tire-repair-guy asks me where I am going. Rock Springs, I tell him. “well that’s good”, he says, “that’s just down the I-80 here”. He’s shocked when I tell him about the dirt road that I want to take. “are you sure you don’t want to take the I-80? At least, if something happens, there’s people around and you won’t be stuck in the desert”. I tell him it is only 6 miles, the dirt part. “more like 26”, he replies. Yeah right like what does he know? Of course, the local turned out to be right.

It is 26 miles of dirt. Well more like solid gravel. The road is in pretty good condition actually, but still requires me to stand on my foot pegs for the entire length. And a Trophy is not made for that. Standing up makes for a very unnatural pose. It is freakin’ hard and my legs start to hurt after a while. Good thing I stop every now and then for a picture. It is beautiful scenery. Every now and then I have to really steer the Trophy to make sure I don’t ride into those huge holes in the road, but most of the time I let the Trophy ‘free-steer’. I had to get used to that in the beginning. I was holding on so tight to the handlebars, that every little movement of your front wheel feels like the bike is going to lose its grip. Like it’s sliding underneath you. And I had a tendency of over-correcting that. It is much easier to hold a looser grip, so the bike will correct itself. It takes a little practice, but once used to it, it rides quite easily.

However, after 26 miles of dirt road, I am happy to see the tarmac again. And it is black with bright yellow lines. Whoohoo! It is funny how relieved you feel once you get back to the real road again. Although I liked the dirt road a lot, the Trophy is simply not made for it. The road that I am on now, is 2 days old. The asphalt was put down 2 days ago, the striping was done yesterday and now there was just some shoulder work to complete, the road workers tell me. Crazy road workers by the way. But so would I be in their position. Can you imagine? Being stuck in the desert, stopping traffic, meaning 2 cars per hour or so? They started giving names to all the animals they saw,  threw rocks at the tons of empty water bottles that they just drank before, and used the stop-signs for swordfights…

That night, I am happy when I reach the hotel. I arrive, get some of my luggage off, go to check in… They can’t find my reservation. Then the girl behind the counter knows why: “aaah, you’re booked into the Homewood Suites, that’s just across the streets”. I was at the Hampton Inn… Oops. Sorry. How embarrassing. I never understood how that could happen to people, and now it happened to me… Maybe I am just tired for today. What was supposed to be a simple from A-to-B day, became a day with an awesome time in the Snowy Mountains, a flat tire, and 26 miles of dirt… that probably also explains why I am washing my hair with body lotion instead of shampoo… Time to get some rest!



View from my hotel room in Chicago… 6922 miles down, ‘only’ 1094 miles to go to New York…

Pictures: Day 9, Sept 28: Winter Park, CO – Laramie, WY

Full Report: Day 9, Sept 28: Winter Park, CO – Laramie, WY

Day total: 320 miles
Trip total: 2942 miles

Brr. It is cold. So cold there’s a little ice frost this morning on the Trophy. Well, I’m from Holland right, I can stand a little cold. An extra sweater does the job just fine. As a ritual, I go to the gas station first, get myself a lame luke warm ham and cheese croissant and I am on my way.

I am heading for Rocky Mountains National Park. It has a cool road too; the Trail Ridge Road. A superhigh road, at 12.183ft (3713m). Great curves and great views guaranteed. What’s also guaranteed, is slow traffic. RV’s in particular… How frustrating is it to see this beautiful black road with bright yellow strips, with a vehicle in front of you that is so large that you can’t even see, well, anything? Let alone its speed… Averaging 15mph or so. It is tempting: shall I overtake over the double yellow lines? I had a bad experience with that before… Luckily, there’s so many scenic overlooks, that I decide to head on into those to at least enjoy the view…

It is still freaking cold by the way, especially on the top. I decide for the first time this trip to put in the windproof liner of my jacket. Works miracles.

Near the top of the road, I am getting to the alpine visitor’s center. Not because of the center itself, but because of the insane views that you have from there. It used to be all glaciers up here. When retreating, they left these lush valleys behind that are now the territory of many elk. An elderly couple informs me there’s still some time left on the telescope they just put a quarter in; I take a peek through it and see many, many elk.

It is still cold, did I mention that already?

During the descent from the top, on another scenic overlook, I am taking some pictures. I notice this gentleman being very interested in the motorcycle. Hoovers around it.  I am almost getting suspicious. I head back to the bike. Turns out that Dean, as that was his name, used to race on Triumph motorcycles back in the days, in the 1960’s or so. He recently owned a Kawasaki Concours14 (a very powerful, fast touringbike), not the kind of bike you would expect for someone in his late 60’s. I quote here: “I offended all my friends, as I only had fun on that thing when I was driving 125mph”. Haha classic!

The north-east side of the Trail Ridge Road is dominated by large meadows; huge open fields of grass with low trees and small rivers; ideal for elk, they say. And they’re right, those animals are all over the place. It is almost hilarious to see the traffic jams they cause: people pull over everywhere, even if the freakin’ animal is so far away that even the Hubble telescope would have a hard time seeing it…

I guess it is because everybody has these expectations of the park. You MUST see wildlife. People expect it to be on the road and as close as in a zoo. Very few are actually lucky to see it like that. Mankind searches left, right and center to see the wildlife. Not a single ant will go unnoticed. But here’s the thing: as soon as they are outside of the park’s boundaries, everything is ignored. No-one pays attention anymore: the kids are back on the iPads, dad is trying all the buttons on the mid-console of his luxury rental car and mom is trying to figure out where the hell they are. And that is a shame: the wildlife is not limited to the borders of the national parks. The wildlife is everywhere. I have seen the most beautiful up-close encounters way outside of the national parks actually…

One real good example of this, was right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. In Estes Park, a little town, acting as a gateway to the park. There was a whole herd of deer down there, in the middle of town. The sheriff was even keeping the folks away from them. So, it is a good thing that people notice them (they were hard to miss though this time…). But again, everyone is like a bunch of sheep, all following each other. ‘Oh look, someone with a photocamera, that is where they are’. So all flock together at the same place. Me, being stubborn, walk around a little bit. And I shit you not: right in front of the Visitors Center for god’s sake, is this huge mule deer just posing for my camera. And not a single person around. Next to the entrance of the Visitors Center! That’s what I mean. I think I made my point.

What follows next is a whole urban area. I hate it. A lot of traffic, lights, road works… I want to get out there and quickly. I miscalculated the route here; I wanted to avoid the freeway, ‘cause they suck simply put, but 14 miles of traffic lights is even worse…

I finally make it out and head for the CO-14. What a relief. My grumpy face changes instantly into one carrying a smile from ear to ear. A tight valley, a lush river, and a windy road with no-one on it. What else can I wish for? I already forgot about the urban area from before by now. I’m happy.

The day ends in Laramie, Wyoming. The first time in this state. A state I am excited about, but I am also sad a little bit to leave Colorado. I had such great times here! The mountains were fantastic, with awesome views and windy roads… Thank you Colorado!

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