Saturday, February 28, 2009

Searching for History in Sedalia

I've often traveled by, through or within the small town of Sedalia, CO. Usually it is in transit to CO67 which leads one eventually to Deckers, CO and the nicely winding and twisting roads available from there. Or, it leads one to CO105 and parts south, a popular motorcycle rider road that takes one to Palmer Lake, Monument and points south.

Today though, armed with printed photos from the Douglas County History Research Center, I went to Sedalia specifically to see if I could find the houses I'd found online and show them to you as they were then, and how they look today.

While there have been changes and growth of course from the late 1800s, early 1900s...some houses were still there!

Plum Avenue and the Marquis Victor House
Circa 1890-1920
Link to photo source at DCHRC

Closeup of Marquis Victor House

Further North on Plum Avenue
LINK to source at DCHRC

The chimney is no longer there but the houses are recognizable

The Weaver House and Corral Circa 1898-1910
LINK to source at DCHRC

The Weaver house is now the Johnson and Sons place, as you can see, the corral is gone

Another photo of the Marquis Victor House built before 1876
LINK to source at DCHRC

As you can see the columns supporting the balcony have seen better days

Sedalia School built in 1912
Link to source at DCHRC

It appears to be somebody's home now, the modern school is over to the right and much larger

That's about all the structures that I found at DCHRC and which I was able to locate during today's wanderings around the town of Sedalia. I am sure the few folks who saw me, wondered why I appeared so interested in old ramshackle buildings. : )

I encourage you to click on the links under each historical photo, it takes you to the DCHRC site and more information is available about the subjects in the photos.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Ride Home in Light Snow

The forecast was for a slight chance of snow, more towards the evening today. So I rode to work on Maria, my 2004 R1140RT since the forecast high was only 40°F.

Things started looking a bit iffy on the radar on or about noon and it started flurrying around 1330 or so. I decided it was time to go home before the snow started sticking.

I geared up while heavy flurries fell on Maria and I in the parking lot. A bit unnerving but the snowflakes would melt immediately upon hitting the pavement so I kept going.

The ride home was in heavy flurries and wet looking but heavily traveled roads, till I got to the intersection of Arapahoe Rd and Parker Rd, then the sun which had been hidden behind dark gray clouds started peeking out. The flurries lessened at this point.

I must have hit every single red light on the way home, giving me plenty of time while stopped at them to ponder how much colder the pavement was getting as I waited there and the snow continued to fall.

Once I got on Orchard Road, which is a main artery neighborhood road to my home neighborhood, the roads started looking wet again since they was less traffic on the road. No problems though, since I was riding in "rain mode" and being very very smooth on braking and turning into curves slowly.

I got home with no problems and got the following pictures to give you an idea of the flurries I mentioned.

Really though, I shouldn't have worried so much since:

A. I've been stuck riding in worse weather.
B. The snow was melting as it hit the ground so the ground had retained enough heat. In fact, I took some temperature readings with a touchless thermometer when I got home and the lowest reading I found was 42°F!

Still, after my accident in June, I did feel a bit more stressed than usual. : )

Ironically, as I am typing this, the skies are clearing, the sun is out and the roads look bone dry. I should have just stayed at work an hour longer, waited for the snow to stop and then come home. Oh well, that's Colorado for ya....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Book Reviews: Geoff Hill's "Way to Go" and The Road to Gobblers Knob

I have stumbled upon the motorcycling adventure books I've read usually when they're referred to in motorcycling catalogs such as Aerostich's motorcycling catalog, or they're mentioned in a blog or website.

Such was the case with the works of Geoff Hill, an Irish travel writer for a couple of newspapers in Belfast, Ireland; he apparently has quite the following in the paper's clientele and is winner of several writing awards in Europe.

He's written two books, the first being "Way to Go" about two rides he did after hitting on the brilliant idea of writing his column while on the road, getting paid to do it and see the world. Now why didn't I think of that first? Yeah, I know, who'd want to read about me designing/supporting networks while riding a motorcycle?

The book is split into two journeys, the first is where he and his friend Patrick Minne (Isle of Man Racer) fly to New Delhi, India and pick up a couple of Royal Enfield 500 Bullet motorcycles. You might know these were a famed British marque which went out of business in Britain but their manufacturing facilities and licensing were bought at their factory in Madras, India and they continued to be produced in India.


Their motorcycles and ride are sponsored by the tea company called Nambarrie and the premise is they are flown to India to pick up the first tea leaves of the season and ride them back to Nambarrie in Great Britain via their "British" motorcycles.

Their adventures along the way, the mishaps, the countries and cultures they encounter and the manner in which the author vividly describes it all makes for a good reading. His descriptions of their Enfield motorcycle, made me glad I've chosen Beemers as my motorcycle of choice for touring. Although I am sure the author exaggerated a bit, the mechanical "issues" an Enfield owner must endure were quite amusing, especially when one is to imagine the riding they did on the motorcycles they used!

Note, the author admits knowing next to nothing about the mechanical workings of motorcycles and machinery in general, lucky for him Patrick Minne was a mechanic. As luck turns out though, Geoff Hill's Enfield makes it through relatively unscathed, while Patrick's Enfield would have a tougher ordeal; to include hitting a sheep!

The second portion of Hill's first book is of his riding the length and breadth of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles while being sponsored by Miller Beer. I tell you, this guy was born under a lucky star to score these writing gigs that he did. I am certain of course that having the talent for describing a journey, and the ability to put a personal and acute spin on the things he saw and the people he met, helped him to be chosen for these riding adventures.

Geoff Hill's writing style strikes me a bit similar to Dave Barry's style of writing. Numbers and descriptions are wildly exaggerated, his humorous depictions of characters and locations are easy to follow; and there are plenty of funny nuggets interspersed in the travelogue. It's like you're there with him and he's telling you the story from across the table while you're both drinking a lot of beer.

Conversely, he has a knack for describing the scenery he sees in such a colorful manner that at times I could picture what he was describing. Some of his descriptions of the vast land expanses along Route 66 reminded me of the scenery I've encountered in my longer rides. His descriptions brought back some good memories for me.

He quotes or rather paraphrases artfully from the many guidebooks he schleps with him, giving you a bit of history and color about the places he rides to and spends some time exploring. It is this, I believe, what makes him a popular travelogue writer, for he makes even the most boring historical note interesting, if only fleetingly.

Throw in amongst all this his imaginary rabbit traveling companion, the search for the best pie and custard and riding through the whole of Route 66 on that most American of icons, a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

His second book, which I read first since the library had it available first, is called "The Road to Gobbler's Knob" where he rides a motorcycle from the tip of South America, on the Pan-American Highway, all the way to where it ends in Alaska.


The adventures he has, along with a Scottish friend of his, Clifford; are entertaining and move along nicely. Clifford is quite the character in his own right, chatting up the women they meet along the ride and snapping their photo for his "upcoming" book on beauties of the Pan-American Highway. The red tape of border crossings, the crash Geoff Hill is unfortunate to have in Columbia and his "carrying on" in spite of it; the people and places they see; all make for a pretty good read.

There is a great review of "The Road to Gobbler's Knob" at LINK

The only turn-off I had with the second book was his propensity for political commentary, some of which I took offense at. This offense, once taken, kind of ruined the rest of the book for me. I wish he'd just kept to writing about his travels and not used the book as a way to tell me his political views. It's a good reminder to me, to keep politics out of my riding blog.

Still, the book is worth picking up, I recommend via your local library, to have a short read over a couple of evenings. Neither of his books is very long, and you will most likely get a chuckle or two in each chapter at least.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lego Beemers and other Brands

One of the blogs I regularly peruse has a posting highlighting the work of Brixe63. His art is the creation of motorcycles using Lego blocks and assorted other shaped pieces. This person is a genius in this medium!

Here's a link to the blog posting itself: The New Cafe Racer Society.

The posting above featured several bikes but this R60/6 model really caught my eye:

Brixe63's BMW R60/6

If you want to see Brixe63's works in their published entirety, go here: Brixe63's Photostream

Here's a few samples from Brixe63's photostream above, you really need to go see them all, from various angles:


1971 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport Telaio Rosso

Moto Morini

Yamaha SR500

I so admired the artist's work that I was inspired to try and create a replica of Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer using Lego pieces. My sons have, over the years, amassed hundreds if not thousands of assorted Lego pieces from the many kits they've received as presents or they've bought for themselves. There was plenty of material to work with but it still took us a few hours to complete the project.

Now, I did start with the image of Brigitta in my mind, but the way the available pieces worked out, the motorcycle in the end looks more like a BMW GS, with its signature beak-like front fender and upraised dual exhaust pipes.

Here's a photo of a 1200GS I got from google as a reference for you non-beemer aficionados:


My second son Miles and I spent quite an enjoyable few hours putting our homage to Brixe63's art, nowhere near his level of skill but not too bad either:

As I wrote, not quite up to the master's level but not bad, and it was fun spending some time with my son while creating it. Hope you liked what we created, definitely go and look at the Brixe63's stuff, he's definitely a master at this art form.

Here's one more lego motorcycle creator:

Choppers by Lino

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Going to the Rocky Mountain National Park via the Peak to Peak Highway

The weather forecast today was for sunny and a high temperature of 58°F, so I thought I'd work in a long distance ride to the Rocky Mountain National Park by Estes Park, CO.

A little before 9am, I was riding northwest-ward, crossing the Denver Metro Area using the I-225/I-25 slabs towards Boulder and US36 which would take me all the way into Estes Park. As usual, I got mixed up and ended up going west of I-70 instead.

My taking the wrong turn actually worked out great for another rider and his girlfriend whom I spotted while I was nearing the exit for CO72 which I was then going to use to go to Estes Park. The rider was pushing his crotch rocket along the side of the highway on I-70 while his passenger walked alongside. I slowed and stopped a bit ahead of them and parked to see if I could render assistance.

Once we got to talking, he told he'd run out of gas of all things. I asked him if he had some kind of container for me to drain some gas from Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer and he did not. I did not have an empty container either, I had forgotten my usual bottle of water! So I drained the can of soda my loving wife had packed for my lunch, drained about ten ounces from Brigitta's tank and he poured it into his tank. This operation would not have been that easy had I been riding Maria, my 2004 R1150RT, although I do carry a gas siphon hose with her.

He seemed confident that what I gave him was enough to get him to the nearest gas station which we could see across the slabs. I packed everything up, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

I headed North on CO72, enjoying the curves on Coal Creek Canyon Road, following the road to the junction with CO119, I turned right onto CO119 was was shortly at the the town of Nederland where I got this picture of Bucephalus, the ex-Panama Canal steam shovel one sees next to the mining museum in town. I noticed in the same lot there's a few other pieces of equipment now, will have to dedicate some more time to peruse them next time.

Bucephalus, the last veteran steam shovel of the Panama Canal's construction

I had been getting pretty chilly by now and had stopped to don my electric vest, only to find out when I went to hook it up that I lacked the right BMW type electric adapter! Oh well, the vest itself has good insulation so it helped to warm me up a bit.

Heading North out of Nederland on CO72/119, aka the Peak to Peak Highway, I wound my way past thick pine forests bordering the pavement and soon went past the settlements of Ward and Allenspark. There's some beautiful scenery in the area between these two settlements:

Near Riverside, on CO7

Mount Meeker, near Allenspark, on CO7

Shortly before Allenspark, one turns onto CO7, which eventually leads you to Estes Park. The roads were pretty empty, but there were points where there was significant amounts of gravel down the center of one's lane. I had to slow way down in these spots but still enjoyed the winding curves and scenery until I finally debauched (big word eh?) onto the valley that leads to Estes Park. The road's gentle downward grade made for an easy entrance into the town itself.

I got to Estes Park around 1130 or so I think. Right about on schedule, I cruised on now US34 which takes you to the entrance of the Rocky Mountain National Park and paid the $10 entrance fee.

The roads within the park were nice and swept for the most part, no gravel. What there was though, in the higher points still accessible was occasional stretches of gravelly snow and ice patches. No big deal as the traffic was very light so I could traverse these small stretches going really slow.

The following are pictures I took of the mountain scenery as I wandered what roads remained open in the park. The Trail Ridge Road which leads through Milner Pass across the Continental Divide was closed for the winter as expected so it limits the amount of pavement once can reach on a motorcycle. Still, I think the shots I got were worth the entrance fee:

I got so close to the retaining wall to clear traffic that I actually bumped it with the right side engine guard!

I really liked the way this shot came out

It took me about an hour or so to take the above pictures, after which there was really not much else to photograph due to the road closures. I made my way out of the park via the Beaver Meadows exit, pausing at the visitor center there to wolf down the sandwich made for me by my loving wife. It was good....

Thus fortified, I headed on back through Estes Park, hooked up with US36 East and rode away from the national park. The day had warmed into the 50s by now as opposed to the 30s when I started the ride back home so I was feeling toasty.

US36, is a winding road which follows the contours of the canyons and mountains it passes through. At times you get glimpses of the frozen waters of the St Vrain river by the side of the highway, very nice. The roadway was dry, and traffic remained light so it was an enjoyable ride to Lyons.

From Lyons, I kept on US36 heading towards Boulder which I reached soon enough. Boulder is the Berkeley wannabe town here in Colorado, full of "free spirited" individuals shall we say? One of these free spirits, a disheveled bearded man in a flannel shirt and soft cap, was carrying for whatever reason a folded lawn chair and yelling stuff at the passing traffic. It was about par for Boulder in my opinion. Luckily, I was moving when he wandered past my position and I could not hear what he yelled directly at me. Probably didn't like BMW motorcycles or something. :)

From Boulder it was a some more riding on US36 till I saw the turnoff for I-25. Traffic on this slab was much heavier than I had seen all day, unsurprisingly. This made the last 40 minutes or so of my riding a bit tense but there were no issues and no idiots that I could not predict. I took the usual roads back to my home neighborhood and was back safe in the garage a little after 3PM.

Perhaps 200 miles of riding today, pretty sunny though chilly conditions on the peak to peak highway. The afternoon started out sunny but soon it was heavily overcast throughout the front range and the temperatures seemed to drop accordingly. Still, a good day of riding.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Woke to meager snow, rode in the afternoon

We've really had a very mild winter this year here in the Denver Metro area. For example, I woke to a really meager amount of snow today, most of which had fallen late yesterday evening. The forecast was for highs in the high 40s and sunny so I knew the snow would not last long.

I took this picture at 0830am, you can see, not much snow:

Here's a closer look without the girls in the way:

Heck, I could have ridden out of the neighborhood at the time I took the pictures but the main roads were not quite clear of snow yet, and what was clear, was wet. Since it was 21°F at that time, figured I could do something else and ride in the afternoon.

I rolled out of the neighborhood after lunch and got in a couple of hours of riding. No destination in mind, just mindless meandering mostly in the DTC or Denver Tech Center area. The sun was out in force and made the mid to high 40s feel much warmer even though I was on Brigitta with her zero wind protection.

It's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow, it might even hit 60°F! I am thinking of riding up to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. Though a lot of the western part of the park is closed for winter, there's still some very scenic views to be had during this time of year. We'll see.

Here's a couple of "where was the motorcycle" shots I took. I play this game with John, aka Sanoke. He's the guy who showed me the fun of motorcycle exploration and once in a while we try to stump each other as to where a picture was taken.

John has definitely explored a lot more of Colorado than I have, still someday I'll get some shot that'll stump him.

Giant Quonset-shaped building

Not snow but a large dome

After some more meanderings, I headed on home via Arapahoe Road, swinging around via the Aurora Parkway, past the Saddle Rock golf course, and finally riding Brigitta back into her spot in the garage.

Lots of folks enjoying the nice weather, saw a couple of other motorcycle riders, plenty of golfers on the driving range, walkers and joggers too many to count and finally some bicyclists along the roadways.

Hope you got a ride in....

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Dusty and Windy Ride Home to Finish off the Work Week

I managed to ride every day this week, conditions ranging from low 30s to mid 50s and sunny to partly cloudy skies. Not great but better than having snow/ice on the roads! There were a couple of days when I rode to work in the dark and came home in the dark, long days.

It was a long week, lots of time spent walking around Denver International Airport with consultants who are part of a major project kicking off there for United Airlines. Once things get going, I'll be spending many a night and day there helping oversee the contractors, doing network changes and trying not to bring the network down and cause flight delays. Joy.

The rides to and from work, were unremarkable in this mild winter weather, except for today. It was quite windy this afternoon as I walked to my motorcycle, I'd been riding Maria, my 2004 R1150RT all week since it was "brisk" weather conditions.

The wind got worse and worse, seemingly, as I rode towards home. At first, I'd see its effect in the little swirls of dust being blown back and forth across the pavement. Tires on the cars ahead of me would stream these little dust clouds as they rolled along, and I imagine Maria was leaving a stream of dust swirls as well.

Once I got past Buckley AFB and hit some open stretches of pavement on Gun Club Road, the wind really started getting fierce. Large amounts of dust would blow up, looking like brown fog, from the open fields lying fallow for the winter. There were times when it felt like I was riding in a mild version of the sandstorms I can still vividly recall from my time in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

The winds got strong enough to start pushing Maria, all 600lbs plus of her and my own weight, sideways on the road. The front end felt very squiggly several times but it all became better once I lowered the windscreen to reduce my "sailing ship" profile. I will admit having to consciously relax my "death grip" on the handlebar several times during the ride.

Still, I've ridden in worse wind conditions, at least the winds were not so strong that I had to lean Maria over continuously to prevent being pushed off the road. There have been rides when I'd be leaning way over into the wind and then it would shift and I'd feel Maria's back end seem to rise up! Very "interesting" riding conditions those; today was a medium version of those. So while it made for a "not boring" commute, I think I can do without such entertaining conditions.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Brigitta and the Front Range

Beautifully sunny day today, temperatures started in the 20s but were in the low to mid 40s by the time I rode out after lunch.

I had intended to just ride to the nearby hardware store but once I got a good look at the clear air conditions and how the Front Range mountains were illuminated, that goal went out the window

I rode over to the Blackstone Country Club neighborhood and rode towards the dirt trails in the prairies surrounding the development. I rode down to the eastern end of the fenced area around Blackstone, got on the dirt trail heading to the NE but it dead-ended at some new wire fencing. I did however get a good shot of a half-crater "terrain feature".

I then wandered southwest-wards on new-to-me dirt trails through rolling prairie grasslands. I am sure they'll be developed into housing some day, for now it's manageable off road terrain which I rode on slowly and without incident.

Some more riding slow on loose dirt and grass finally got me back on pavement way away from my entrance point. In fact, it was the Aurora Parkway, about two blocks from the local police substation. Still seeking more shots of the front range, I tried the usual spot near the police station; it's an empty cul-de-dac which while paved, has no housing yet.

I wandered down to near the BMW motorcycle dealer I frequent and tried for shots of the large US flag at the car dealership across the street. The light was not quite right and this is the best I got:

It was close to 1530hrs by this point and though it was even warmer than at the start of my ride, I rode on home. Saw a total of six other motorcycle riders out and about today, much better than yesterday.

Hope you got a ride in.....