August 22, 2004

My Summer Vacation

What I did on my summer vacation. First, I woke up. Then I went on a trip.

We took off bright and early on Saturday (7/31). My cousin was leading the way. He's a truck driver, and he peddles up into Wisconsin, so we took many back roads up to Prairie Du Chien, where we crossed over the Mississippi. That area is one of my favorites to ride through on a day trip. Scenery is beautiful, and the wandering way that my cousin took had us riding along the tops of hills. You can see for miles on either side of you. Rolling hills forever! Very picturesque, and we were only one state away!!

Then comes Iowa. Now, I'm not slamming the state. Along the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys it's very, very scenic. If you believe the idiots, as soon as you hit the Iowa state line, it's nothing but flat cornfields. Wrong. There are many hills and bluffs along both valleys making some incredible views. The middle of the state, however ... It just doesn't go by fast enough for me! My cousin used to farm, so he loves it. Huge fields, flat huge fields, and then, more huge fields. Nothing against huge "tracts of land," but it doesn't really appeal that much to me. This is the area where we were trying to get to the Harley/John Deere Dealer. I've got some friends that still live in Clear Lake, but unfortunately, we didn't have the time to stop and visit. Dull this part of the state may be, but I have to say, they try to make up for it by overstocking the area with beautiful women. No, Harvey, I didn't get hit on. This is just an observation from previous visits! (And a way to assure a meal and a place to stay next time I go out there!!) We took Hwy. 18 all the way across to Sheldon, where we picked up 60. Awesome ride from there to South Sioux City, Nebraska. This is where we stayed the first night, and met MOVG and her lovely daughter!

We (my brother and I) also managed to get my cousin in trouble here. Cousin was on the phone with his nightly report back to his wife, and he couldn't get the state and name of the city down. He kept mixing it up badly, so my bro and I started making fun of him. Kinda quiet at first, but the more he got flustered, the louder we got. "Honey, I'm in South Iowa Nebraska! No, wait, Sioux Nebraska, Iowa!" He was laughing at us, and then, before we knew what was going on, he was trying to explain to his wife that we weren't laughing at her. It took a bit, but he finally convinced her. Of course, our laughing at him while he tried to explain this didn't help his cause much, but he finally pulled it off!!! What's family for, anyway?

Next day we rode across Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming. My bro started the day out quoting South Park: "You are now entering Nebraska: Sorry!" We rode only on state highways, trying to avoid interstate until Cheyenne. We followed hwy 30 across the state. It parallels Ints. 80 after Grand Island. It's neat, and depressing seeing all these little towns that are along 30. They still see some business, but the interstate has killed many different types of touristing shops. I always catch myself imagining what it was like before super highways. As far as Nebraska's scenery, I liked it. Hardly any really boring stretches (unlike central Iowa), and it wasn't all cornfields. Trains now, they were many. Many. Many. 30 runs right along the tracks, and I don't think we ever made it two miles without seeing a train. The worst thing was when they would be right alongside of us and blast their whistle. Scared the crap out of me more than once!!!

From Cheyenne, we headed to our final resting place in Newcastle, Co. Of course, it wasn't a straight shot. We rode through Rocky Mountain National Park. Now that was beautiful! I can't remember the name of the road we took to the top of the pass(I think it was Old River Road, or something close), but it was a dirt road. A rough dirt road. I love riding like that, but when you are on the edge of a mountain, and getting thrown all over the road because of the ruts, you really don't take too much time to look around. I did take a long look over the valley once, and then after I was within about a foot of the edge of the road, and within two feet of the edge of the mountain, I decided I'd better concentrate on keeping my bike on the road. Not to mention keeping it from stalling. Being a flatlander, the carburetor is set up for a much lower elevation. Riding at over 10,000 feet makes the engine bog down quite a bit, and when you are only going between five and ten mph, the bike just doesn't feel like running for you! I did manage to take a few pictures on a couple of our stops, so when/if I get them developed, I'll post them.

Got into Newcastle kinda late. We were dodging rain for most of the afternoon, but only got pelted good once for about ten minutes. Not too shabby! Anyway, Newcastle is a small town located just west of Glenwood Springs, and about 80-90 miles east of Grand Junction. This was our base of operations, although we didn't end up with all that many operations. The plan was to ride the mountains in the area surrounding the town. Happened one day, but it was still very cool.

Our first day there, our host wanted to show us around. He's a great guy, just a little lonely. Originally, he was from my area of the world, but his daughter and her family moved out there years back, and rather than drive out there twice a year,(he's retired) he and his wife decided to move out west. She died a few years ago, and he doesn't see many people other than his daughter. Here he was, all happy that he had guests, so he planned out a day to show us the sights! We all originally were going to ride over to Aspen and Independence Pass, but seeing how excited he was, we figured that spending the day with him was more important. He took us back on roads that are not on any map that we owned, and told us about some of the town history. Newcastle started as a mining town, and when he took us around, you could see some of the old mines in the sides of cliffs. Pretty cool. The mountain nearby, is called "Burning Mountain" and he told us how it got the name. Now, I was out there two years ago, and some of the people I visited with told me a little about the place, but I think that they assumed I knew more than I did. This time, no mistake. And the story is tragic, but cool.

In the late 1880's the Vulcan and Consolidated coal mines were started. These two mines are pretty much the beginning of the town, although there were settlers there before. In 1896, the Vulcan Mine exploded, killing 49 men. A couple of years later, the Consolidated caught fire. Attempts were made to flood the mine to put out the fire, but they failed and the mine was permanently closed. The fire is still burning inside of the mountain. You can see a line of dead grass and brush over the area where the fire is, and in the winter, there is steam rising from the burning patch. The Vulcan also had explosions in 1913 (37 dead) and 1916 (3 dead). There is a memorial in a park downtown. My brother and I checked that out. Sad. There were some that lost family members in all three explosions.

Another thing that I found fascinating, and I look forward to spending more time checking it out next time, was the cemetery. Explosion victims, and others from many years back. I know it sounds kind of morbid, but I always have been interested in history. You see many dates in a graveyard. What you don't know for certain, you can try to imagine.

On our riding day, we headed for Utah. A friend of my brother loaned me his travel bag, and the guy loves beer. I decided that I was going to pick him up a shirt from a Harley dealer, so I looked for one in Utah that we could stop at. What luck?! The dealer in Vernal is Beer's Harley-Davidson. Perfect!

This was the day that I got to display my social skills with the ladies. On the way back, we stopped at Dinosaur National Monument. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the whole thing, as there are a couple of entrances, but at least we stopped at the area where the quarry was located. It was pretty cool seeing all the bones still in the rock. The quarry is now just a display, no more excavation. We were wondering when we first saw the wall if this was something like an elephant graveyard, but found out that this had been a river bed. Dinosaurs would get washed downstream, and their bodies deposited in this area. Some were whole, more than likely drownings, and others were just partial, killed or dead alongside the river. Scavengers would start eating from the carcasses, and then during high water, the bodies carried to this spot. The river bed dried out, fossils formed, and then the ground buckled, pushing the former river bed into a mountain. Over the years, erosion helped to expose the bones. My simplified version! The bones were discovered in 1909, by Earl Douglass, and the monument made official in 1915. If you ever get out to this area, you should stop in. Very cool place. Well, actually, it's quite hot. My brother gave his explanation of the great dinosaur die out as we were walking out, sweating to death. "The stupid things died because they lived in a desert! No food, no water, no life!" (Those may not be his exact words, but they are damn close.) Does make you wonder what the area was like back then. Somewhere I heard that this area was hundreds of miles south of where it is now. It's one of those things that I'm not totally certain about, but I wouldn't be suprised!

After a another day of just sitting around relaxing, (it rained most of the day) we started our ride home. Nothing spectacular, except for a stop at another cousin's house in Iowa. We hardly ever get to see him, so it was great to sit around and visit. Stayed up late, drank a little, and ate a lot! The following morning, they made a big breakfast for us. They didn't need to do all that, but I'll say that I'm glad they did! They thought it would be funny to "force feed" me tequilla the night before, and I really needed that to settle the old guts. Can't wait to do it again!

This was one of those vacations that a person really needs. When I got back, I felt great. Things not going smoothly? No, problem ... I just got back from vacation. Try running wire through my thumb? Hey, no worries ... I just got back from vacation! For the most part, bad things were just ignored for the first few days back. I love that feeling!!

Posted by That 1 Guy at August 22, 2004 09:50 PM | TrackBack