Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Driving Ms Martha up Mount Evans

Turns out, Martha, my loving wife, has never been up Mount Evans....the highest auto highway in the USA.

Today we remedied that.  We abandoned our teenage sons at home and set off on Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig.  The weather was sunny and cool when we started off, with temperatures nicely in the 70's.

We would hit a low of 37°F at the summit of Mount Evans and it would be 84°F when we returned home to Centennial!

 Summit bound, here's Martha....looking somewhat like the Stig at
the first picture spot.

 The Stig looks cold.

 Martha gets the requisite shot of the summit sign.

 Amid the ruins of the old lodge house at the summit of Mt Evans,
this goat gazed out from the rocks at us tourists.

 All these greens and blues, I think I prefer snow capped mountain peaks.

 One of the picture spots I picked, happened to be next to four cars with curious
paint jobs and markings.  We believe they're some manufacturer's next year's models, 
undergoing high altitude driving tests.

 The day was gorgeous and the views were clear.

 Martha stares into the abyss....

 At one of the many hairpin turns on Mount Evans Highway

 Martha tries to show me how the tonneau can be used as a burkha.....

 Yep, on a clear day, you can see forever.

There was construction on CO103 both going up to Echo Lake from Idaho Springs and going down towards Bergen Park.  We ended up detouring onto Witter Gulch Road and ended up in Evergreen eventually.

The rest of the ride was just using CO74, through the small towns of Kittredge and Idledale eventually ending up in Morrison where we got onto the C-470 super slab.  Things had warmed up into the low 80s by the late afternoon and we had to make a quick stop to shed a layer.

An outstanding day of riding with my sweetie.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Holmen, Wisconsin: Then and Now

It's been quite a while since I did a Then and Now posting, so here's what I found on the bustling "metropolis" of Holmen, Wisconsin.  My Father-in-Law, Richard, lives here during the summers and has been wintering in Arizona as a snowbird.

We'd visited Holmen recently to help Martha's dad celebrate his 80th birthday.  Quite the turnout for the party and we saw some familiar faces from previous visits.

The above postcard was the inspiration for this posting, btw.
Martha had shown it to me and so I tried to find the same spot that
the postcard's photo was taken from:

Holmen 2013
I didn't quite get the angles the same, didn't have the postcard
with me, but I think you can extrapolate.  Gone is the red-colored 
building on the left of the postcard for instance.

photo courtesy of Holmen Historical Society

Nowadays, the Bearly Used Consignment Store, 2013

The Holmen Creamery, date undetermined for the photo
but it was built starting in 1899.
photo courtesy of Holmen Historical Society

The Holmen Creamery Building, 2013.

There really weren't any other buildings still standing that I could find historical pictures of online.  Oh sure, the local churches but I failed to get present day pictures of same.  You may want to peruse the stuff on the Holmen Historical Society's website:  LINK

One last picture, taken of Valencia at the side of the Holmen Creamery Building, just for fun:

I jokingly referred to Holmen as a Metropolis at the start of this post.  It is instead, a quiet little town, typical of the Midwest.  I imagine is a nice place to retire to, and in the last few years, its become somewhat of a bedroom community for the nearby city of Lacrosse, WI.  There was a newly built housing subdivision right next to my father-in-law's farm.  Where there had been crop fields, now stood new houses....progress I guess?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Visiting with BobSkoot and Finding Some History along the Mississippi River

Yesterday afternoon, we were fortunate that Bobskoot's route to the Northeast US happened to coincide with our arrival to Holmen, WI where we were visiting my father-in-law for his 80th birthday celebration.

Bobskoot graciously diverted from projected mileage on I-90 and he arrived in Holmen shortly after I had stopped to wait for him to appear.  Good timing!

The evening was spent chatting with our hosts, Sue and Fred, who are generously providing their finished basement (with two bedrooms) and a small RV for the three boys, my two and my nephew Greg.  The adults get the bedrooms, we threw the boys into the RV.

I overslept a bit this morning, delaying Bobskoot's departure a bit (Sorry about that, Bob).  Still, we got him out on the road by 8:30 AM I believe, heading towards either Beloit or Rockford, IL to meet with another moto-blogger.

Looking a bit like a ninja....Bobskoot looks ready for anything

Bobskoot admitted to me that he'd found the R1200R Beemer to be quite the smooth continental distance crushing machine.  He was even "having doubts" about his Wee-Strom.  The Teutonic Kool-Aid process has begun.....(insert evil laughter here).

Around 9:30 AM, I took off northwards along US35 on a ride towards Cottage Grove, MN.  The route would basically parallel the Mississippi River, taking turns riding on the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides depending on which crossing I took.

The day was hot and humid with bright sunshine.  I was sweating in no time but I was on a mission.

A cool railroad bridge that is raised out of the way for the taller boats 
sailing along the Mississippi.

About three hours or so later, quite sweaty and hot, I found my objective: AVIATION BEACON 33 OLD 37.  What the heck is that you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

One of the riders I'd met on my trip to Alaska, GaryAK, had emailed me a photo of a concrete arrow with the following:


This Really Exists: Giant Concrete Arrows That Point a Way Across America

Cement Arrows, Transcontinental Air Mail Route
Courtesy of Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research

Every so often, usually in the vast deserts of the American Southwest, a hiker or a backpacker will run across something puzzling: a ginormous concrete arrow, as much as seventy feet in length, just sitting in the middle of scrub-covered nowhere. What are these giant arrows? Some kind of surveying mark? Landing beacons for flying saucers? Earth’s turn signals? No, it's…

The Transcontinental Air Mail Route

A re-creation of a 1920s map showing the route of airmail planes; the dots are intermediate stops along the course.

On August 20, 1920, the United States opened its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route, just 60 years after the Pony Express closed up shop. There were no good aviation charts in those days, so pilots had to eyeball their way across the country using landmarks. This meant that flying in bad weather was difficult, and night flying was just about impossible.

The Postal Service solved the problem with the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system: a series of lit beacons that would extend from New York to San Francisco. Every ten miles, pilots would pass a bright yellow concrete arrow. Each arrow would be surmounted by a 51-foot steel tower and lit by a million-candlepower rotating beacon. (A generator shed at the tail of each arrow powered the beacon). Now mail could get from the Atlantic to the Pacific not in a matter of weeks, but in just 30 hours or so.

Even the dumbest of air mail pilots, it seems, could follow a series of bright yellow arrows straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon. By 1924, just a year after Congress funded it, the line of giant concrete markers stretched from Rock Springs, Wyoming to Cleveland, Ohio. The next summer, it reached all the way to New York, and by 1929 it spanned the continent uninterrupted, the envy of postal systems worldwide.

Radio and radar are, of course, infinitely less cool than a concrete Yellow Brick Road from sea to shining sea, but I think we all know how this story ends. New advances in communication and navigation technology made the big arrows obsolete, and the Commerce Department decommissioned the beacons in the 1940s. The steel towers were torn down and went to the war effort. But the hundreds of arrows remain. Their yellow paint is gone, their concrete cracks a little more with every winter frost, and no one crosses their path much, except for coyotes and tumbleweeds. But they’re still out there.

Much internet based research later, I'd found a couple of spreadsheets maintained at that listed the airway beacons and whether concrete arrows were still believed to be onsite.  There's not many of the arrows or towers left for that matter.  Progress and decay are both to blame I guess.

Drawing of an Airway Beacon Station
Note how the tower is built in the middle of the concrete arrow.

So that's why I was riding in the heat and humidity, on my stalwart 2011 URAL Patrol Sidecar Rig, Valencia today.  While Bobskoot raced for the eastern part of the US, I rode along the Mississippi to capture a bit of history.

googlemaps satellite image of the arrow

a partial view from on high, of the arrow

a google "Street View" shot of the arrow.
I bet most folks just drive by the property, paying no attention to
strange concrete on the lawn.

The concrete arrow in question, lies on private property but can be seen from the edge of the road.  As I was taking pictures, the gentleman who owns the property came out to see what I was doing.

Jim, had spotted my rig riding by and then had seen it again after I'd parked her across the road from his property.  He came out and we had a nice little chat about the concrete arrow and the beacon tower that once stood where he is standing in the picture below.

  Jim stands on the leading edge of the square which is located in the middle
of the 70 foot arrow.  The metal tower's four legs stood in in the corners.


He told me that the tower was torn down in 1954, one year after he graduated from high school.  He recalled stories such as how the light beacon was so bright it used to shine into neighboring houses windows at night.  He also remembered how in the last year or two, the automatic lighting mechanisms started failing and they would have to turn the light on and off manually sometimes.

Jim also mentioned I should meander a couple of miles north to see what he described as a house which looks a lot like the White House in Washington, D.C.  I was of course, intrigued.  After I thanked him and we said our goodbyes, I headed north and found this:

The Cedarhurst Historic Country House, est. 1868.
Apparently, its hosted presidents as guests.

I now motored on back to Holmen, WI.  Pretty much re-tracing my route but switching over to the Wisconsin side at Wabasha, MN.  The temperatures peaked at 90F but it felt much hotter at times.

There's some big fishes in the Mississippi....

Made it back by 4:30 PM or so, Valencia did great, and I found one of the few remaining arrows used by the Air Mail Service of yore.....a good day of riding!

More information here on this blog about the Airway Beacon System:  LINK

Gary A. of Alaska sent me this link to a news video on the navigation arrows: LINK

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Family Trip to Wisconsin : Day 1&2

My family and I are currently on day two of a three and a half day ride to Lacrosse, WI to see family.  My father-in-law is turning 80 and most of the regional clan is gathering to celebrate.

We left yesterday, in the early afternoon, in truly sunny and hot conditions in the state of Colorado.  For the first time ever, I was trailering my motorcycle to the final destination.  Yep, trailering.

At a fuel stop, somewhere in Nebraska

Being on a trailer, Valencia achieved unheard of sustained speeds for a URAL.  We averaged 70 mph with no issues, Valencia resting comfortably on the trailer, probably wondering why she was on a trailer.  I must admit, the heat of the day (it would peak at 102 degress Farenheit) would have made for miserable riding conditions while following ATGATT.  

I saw plenty of motorcycle riders though, some with gear, most without much in terms of protective gear.

As we weren't in a hurry to get to Wisconsin (we're not expected till Monday evening), we did some touristy stops along the way.  First stop was the Strategic Air Command's Air and Space Museum in Omaha, NE.

 A pretty good museum, specializing of course in the aircraft used by the
Strategic Air Command

 The first thing one sees as one walks in, the SR-71 Blackbird.

 The "Goblin", never deployed, it was apparently going to hang in a B-36's 
bomb bay, and be dropped/launched when needed to provide fighter
escort services to the bombers!

The front entrance to the museum has missiles displays.

We continued driving eastward and soon were pulling off of I-80 and heading south on State Rd 169 to the town of Winterset.  The objective had been to go look at the birthplace of one of my favorite actors of the silver screen: John Wayne.

 John Wayne's Birthplace

Coincidentally, it turns out Winterset, the town where John Wayne was born is also the county seat for Madison County of "The Bridges of Madison County" fame.  In addition, there was a small vintage car show in the downtown area today so it was all bonus tourist stuff.

 I liked this car the best, and while it wasn't a bad turnout, it wasn't 
exactly a great one in terms of vintage car examples.

Madison County Seat

 A bit anti-climatic, here's one of the "Bridges of Madison County"

Cedar Ridge Covered Bridge

Tourist stuff over with, and with night closing in on us, we found lodging north of Des Moines in the town of Ames.  Long day on the road and yet it was done in guilty comfort within the confines of the BMW X5, I could get used to hauling my rig over the long boring interstate slab portions of trips.....

An Iowa Sunset, almost as good as a Colorado sunset.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dropping off Yoshie and a ride on a Scooter Sidecar Rig

Today, due to several factors but mainly because she's rarely ridden anymore, I rode Yoshie to Unique Rides in Fort Collins, CO to have them sell her on consignment.

I'd tried selling her before, you might recall if you've been on this blog for a while, without success.  I finally decided to let Unique Rides, the URAL dealer up at Fort Collins try and do it as folks go to them for, well, unique rides!  Yoshie, my 2006 Suzuki V-Strom/Dauntless Sidecar Rig sure fits that bill!

A bit to the left of the colorful display of Genuine and Sym brand scooters above, there was this rather nicely outfitted Genuine Stella model scooter with a Cozy Sidecar attached!  I'd seen her before on my visits to the dealership and today was the day for a test ride.

Some impressions, she's small!  I felt like there was nothing underneath me as I rode out of the dealership on the test drive!  The old fashioned Vespa-like clutch/shift grip on the left took some getting used to, never had ridden a vehicle with such an unusual (to me) clutch mechanism.

I rode her to to a nearby street with a field next to it, for the below pictures.

She sure is an eye-catcher isn't she?  Or was it the sight of a grown man, fully kitted out in black riding gear and helmet riding a little bitty scooter with a huge pickle shaped sidecar attached?  The world will never know.

No, I didn't buy the scooter, it sits at Unique Rides, waiting for some adventurous scooterista to come by and fall in love with it.  It's price is less than $5500 I believe so if you want it, give the folks at Unique Rides a call!

My loving wife Martha, who had a lunch date in Loveland about 25 minutes away, then came by later to pick me up from the dealership since I was leaving Yoshie with them.  No tearful goodbyes, I must say I never really bonded with Yoshie as I had done previously with Natasha (my '96 Ural Sportsman) or currently with Valencia, my 2011 URAL Patrol (though there's still trust issues between us).

I hope a caring owner will buy Yoshie and take her out riding as she was designed to do, we shall see.

Note: the heat wave continues to hold Colorado in its grip, it was damn hot here today, again.