Thursday, August 21, 2008

Our Colorado Trip Summery


Now that the trip is over, it time to reflect on this amazing experience. This was the longest motorcycle trip I’ve been on. Actually, this was the longest trip I’ve ever been on. For 50 wonderful days we were away from the Midwest. I ended up riding 6,864 miles during the 50 days, Mike’s mileage was a little less than mine since his bike was the dealers getting fixed and I got to do a few rides while he had to work.


Location, location, location and lodging

Besides riding some awesome roads and seeing some amazing places, this trip had a purpose. The purpose was to take a close look at three locations in Colorado and to see where we would like to live. Now that I no longer had a job in Chicagoland, we were thinking of moving away from Illinois. This was not a new thought, it’s something we’ve been talking about for about a year. Colorado seemed like a nice place to live but before moving there we wanted to take a closer look. The three areas we wanted to look at was Denver and the surrounding suburbs, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

During our trip we spent a total of a month in Colorado. A week in Broomfield, two weeks in Fort Collins, a week in Colorado Springs and three days in Highlands Ranch. We also spent a week in Monticello, Utah. The week we spend in Utah was just for fun.


Our Friends in Colorado

But this trip wouldn’t have happened without some help. We have to give thanks to some special people who we now call friends, who took us in to their homes. If we had to stay in motels the entire duration of this trip, this trip would have been a short one since motel stay can get expensive and we couldn‘t camp since Mike worked Monday through Friday during this entire trip and he needed high speed internet to do his work and a quiet work area to do his phone calls.



In Broomfield with Rita and Carl (Carl took this picture)



In Fort Collins with Jim



In Colorado Springs with Paul, Deb and baby Daniella



In Highlands Ranch with Mike's uncle Larry



Food

One of the advantages of staying with people is having a real kitchen. A Kitchen = home cooked meals, which also saves a bunch of money, since eating out gets expensive. Mike is good cook so whenever possible he would cook something good.



Mike and I grocery shopping at Safeway



Mike’s scrumptious shrimp etoufee in Broomfield



Mike's yummy beans and rice in Fort Collins



A good meal makes excellent leftovers for lunch

The one week we stayed in a motel we cooked in our room since we had a fridge and microwave in the room.



Our motel room at the National 9 Inn in Monticello



The meals we made in the motel room were not very fancy but way cheaper than going out to eat


Beer

Colorado is known as "The Napa Valley of the Beer World” so the one thing that I tried to do while on my trip was to drink beers brewed in Colorado.

Colorado Beers consumed on this trip:



Estes Park Stinger Wild Honey Wheat



Boulder Beer Singletrack Copper Ale



Breckenridge Avalanche Amber Ale



Odell (Fort Collins) Levity Amber Ale



Odell (Fort Collins) 90 Shilling Ale



Odell (Fort Collins) Easy Street Wheat on tap and some Fort Collins pizza



New Belgium (Fort Collins) 1554 Black Ale



The Fort Collins Brewery The Kidd Lager


Parks


National Parks, Monuments and Recreational Areas Visited:

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado
Flaming Gorge Recreation Area, Utah
Curecanti National Recreational Area, Utah
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (South Rim), Colorado
Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Canyonlands National Park (Needles and Island in the Sky), Utah
Arches National Park, Utah

We sure did visit a lot of parks on our trip. Even though each one was unique and worth a visit, some were better then others for particular activities and reasons.

Grand Teton had absolutely amazing views but it was pretty crowded at the park and the roads weren’t what I‘d call good motorcycle roads. Too bad we didn’t have enough time to do some hiking, I think it would have been great.

Rocky Mountain National Park has beautiful views, great trails and amazing roads. But I thought the riding in Mesa Verde was even better, the road was much twistier and there was way less traffic than at the Rocky Mountain and the views were great also. But my favorite park for riding a motorcycle through is the Flaming Gorge. The road and views are out of this world, and the traffic is light also. Even though Canyonlands have spectacular views and the road is great, and there is hardly any traffic, the road isn’t that twisty as at the above parks.

The parks that were not at all what I expected were Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Arches. The road through each of these parks wasn’t all that great, but after all that is not a prerequisite for a national park. The scenery just wasn’t as good as the other parks that I listed above. Although before I make a final conclusion about Black Canyon of the Gunnison I’d like to see the rest of the park. What I did see at the South Rim wasn’t that impressive. As for Arches, there were just too many people there for me to enjoy the park, and this wasn’t even a weekend. Too many tar snakes on the road and not enough spectacular scenery to be seen from the bike’s seat makes this not the best park to ride through. I do think this would be a great place to explore on foot, since you have to hike to most of the arches.


Frustrations

Biggest frustrations of this trip for me was the soft luggage. Packing was very time consuming. Each week over the 6 weeks it just became a bigger pain especially when camping over the weekend with all our stuff. Packing the saddle bags off the bike actually is not that hard, but when the saddle bags are already on the bike it make it harder to pack them and of course to take them off the bike just to put them back on the bike is a lot of work also. That‘s why hard luggage is best for long trips or for people that tour frequently. That was the reason why after a couple of years of touring on the 954RR I ended buying the ST3. Instead of spending 45-60 minutes every time to pack the bike, with hard luggage it only takes about 20 minutes or less to pack. I'm sure it would have been easier if I had less stuff with me, but unfortunately I already brought only the necessities. Hard luggage rules!

Overall this was an amazing experience and as all good things, it went by way too fast. We met some great people and saw some spectacular scenery and rode some terrific roads. Too bad Mike had to work each week, but we decided before we left Illinois that even though the trip would be way more fun for me than for him, this was one of those unique times in our lives where we could pick up and go for an extended time on our bikes since I had no job and he was working from home. We wanted to do it and we don’t regret the decision, the trip was great even though we still couldn‘t go and see everything we wanted to and rushed through some of the days like on our other trips.

We have what we were seeking on this trip - an idea of where we want to live. We liked the Denver area a lot, but it was just another big city with suburbs, not as big as Chicago but too big for us. Colorado Springs grew since I was last there in 2006, it was very built up and congested and also felt big. Fort Collins felt just right. It had that laid back small town atmosphere, but it’s big enough to have all the big city amenities. And it’s so close to nature - mountains and rivers all close by.



A rainbow over Fort Collins - we enjoyed our stay in Fort Collins so much we ended up staying an extra week there

4 comments:

mike said...

Fort Collins is great! I have a colleague who lives and works there. He showed me around and it has that small town feel, but everything is clean and well done. The mountains, access to southern Utah and the skiing (a little drive) are great reasons to live there.

Thanks for the ride reports, its kind of sad as winter approaches and the thought of riding less and fewer of your reports will be coming. It was nice to have them strung out over the weeks.

Thanks again

Jerry said...

Anna,

Glad you guys made it back safe and sound. We would also like to live in Colorado. I have been there a bunch of times and have loved it each time . Great pictures and it sounds like the trip was one you will never forget. Very cool..

Anna said...

Thanks for reading!

Whew - I'm finally done posting about the BIG ride. Two months and 48 posts later.

As much as I wanted to finish this ride report no more than a week after the trip was over, blogging about trips is time consuming, but fun.

Now that I’m done with the trip I can hopefully catch up with the blogging. So much has happened in the last two months. The touring may be over for the season, but hopefully there will still be some good rides to blog about.

And the final escape from Chicagoland is still to come LOL

Marty said...

what a great write up Anna! I'll need to reread it a few times to figure out all the great places you went as I plan our southwest trip for next spring.

whatever happened with your ST3? I'm looking forward to taking mine through the beautiful red rock canyons and national parks next spring.

good luck with your move.