Author Topic: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.  (Read 2561 times)

Offline Ranger

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Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« on: June 13, 2011, 06:11:53 pm »
Well, our time finally came. 9 days, and 3,500 miles on my first long trip on my 02 Connie that I purchased late last fall.

Being our first long trip on our new Connies this may get a little long winded.  Hope you enjoy. We (my friend and fellow 04 Connie owner) covered 7 western states with a 2 day layover at my friends sisters house in Denver, CO. I will try and include a link to a 11 minute video I put together of the trip.

First a confession. The morning of our departure I managed to lose the balance of my fully loaded Connie while pulling it out of the garage and helplessly watched it fall over away from me breaking off the right side foot peg :-[.  Fortunately I have a garage full of motorcycles and we confiscated a peg from a Suzuki SV650S that did the job nicely.

Okay, lets try this again.  "Release the hounds!!!"  We were off.
My friend "Mike" has a sister in Denver, so that had become a sort of destination to build the trip around. We would super slab it and just blast all the way down to Denver mostly using the interstates. Then on the return we would do more of what I really wanted to do and stick to the two lane highways.

So, departing Kirkland WA, which is just a couple miles east of Seattle, we got on I-90 and headed east over the Cascade range. Just over the pass we had to don our rain gear and got pretty hammered by the rain until we pulled into Cle Elum for morning coffee. We knew we would most likely encounter rain going over the Cascades, but also knew that the rest of the trip looked pretty good for weather. Back on the road again, just past Ellensburg we got on I-82 which took us down to I-84 which would take us all the way down to Mountain Home ID, a little ways south of Boise where we would spend our first night. I am not a fan of pounding the pavement on the interstate all day, but we were glad to be finally on our way, the bikes were running fabulously and we were excited about the coming adventure.

The next day we rose early and continued on southeast on I-84 until got into Utah and finally the Park City turn off to State 40 which would take us over the Rocky mountains on into the Denver area. Once on I-40 we rolled into the east Utah town of Vernol around 8:30pm feeling a bit weary and got a motel for the night. The weather had been mostly favorable except for the wind. We encountered quite a bit of wind along the way, and mixed with the heavy trucks that stirred up the air out on the super slab, it made for some not so friendly skies. That's motorcycling. You take the good with the bad.

The next morning we wake up early to a crisp clear (and windless!) morning to take on the Rockies. First things first though....we scour the main drag of the metropolis of Vernol until we find a espresso coffee stand to get ourselves adequately caffeinated. Did I mention we were from Seattle? Okay, now were ready.

Yeehaw! this is what I'm talking about! A beautiful two lane highway winding itself east into the foothills of the Rocky mountains, no wind, not a cloud in the sky, and very light traffic! Let the games begin!! I was simply thrilled to be rid of the super slab and using my new Avons the way they were designed to be used. We had a wonderful ride into the Ski resort town of Steamboat springs where we took a little break. Leaving Steamboat we crested Rabbit ears pass at 9,426 feet and then dropping into lower elevations we continued on now climbing ever higher into the big part of the Rockies. Staying on State 40 we finally crested Berthoud Pass at 11,315 feet before descending down the other side of the big mountains. There was a lot of snow up there however we had clear skies and dry roads. The Connies performed very well at the higher elevations not missing a a beat. Just outside of Denver we took the cutoff to the city of Golden to arrive at Mike's sisters house at around 2:30pm mountain time feeling a little road weary but very happy with how the Connies were handling the trip so far.

The next day we take a side excursion trip up to Fort Collins to look around trying to find a shop that has a replacement speedo cable for my Connie that broke on the ride down. Nobody has one and we don't have time to wait for one to be ordered. Not a big deal as Mike's is working fine and I will depend on him to keep track of the miles. We spend the second night of R&R in Golden and depart the following morning to begin heading back north.

We have to superslab it back to Fort Collins before we get on state 287 that will take us into Wyoming and then on the slab again for just a little while before we can pick up state 287/789 that will take us all the way northwest into Yellowstone Park. I was always happy to rid ourselves of the interstate in favor of the two lane. All in all, much more enjoyable riding. I had read that Yellowstone's most rainy month was in fact June. However, we were keenly checking the weather before departure and it appeared fortune would be with us as it was calling for sunny skies over Yellowstone for the next couple of days.

Through much of Wyoming we were in some extremely wide open country with seemingly endless amounts of rolling ranch lands with no shortage of antelope like creatures romping and grazing about. Not sure exactly what they were. One thing I like about cruising the way we were is that my mind seems to clear up and I can think more clearly. Seeing the vast expanse laid out before us as we purred along my imagination ran wild imagining what it must have been like 150 years ago as early ranchers and farmers struggled to make a life in these parts. Winters must have been just brutal at times in a land that must have seemed simply immense back in those days. I can't help but have a tremendous respect for the toughness of those people.

About midway through Wyoming we roll into the small town of Lander and decide to stop to stretch our legs and get some grub. On the way out of town we pass by a small Kawasaki shop that looks as if it mostly services snowmobiles and dirt bikes. However I do see a brand new Connie sitting out front and decide what the heck, it won't hurt to ask about a speedo cable. We pull in the gravel parking area and saunter in to say hello. There doesn't seem to be anyone home until finally a gut appears from the back with a big smile. "I know this is a long shot, but would you happen to have a speedo cable on hand for a 02 Concours?" In about 2 minutes he pulls one out and says here ya go, that will be $17.50. I couldn't believe it, I must have called every shop in the Denver area to no avail and here in this little town in the middle of Wyoming I find what I need. Seeing my surprise, the shop owner asks me to step out side and look up at the sign. I oblige and step out to see a Kawasaki sign that reads "Oldest Kawasaki dealership in America". Hard to believe that the oldest Kawasaki shop in the USA is in this little ranch town, but it is. After installing the new speedo cable and gassing up we were on our way. We pulled into Dubois WY about 4:30 and seeing a nice looking KOA camp ground along side the river we decide to call it a day. A buffalo burger and a hot shower later and we hit the sack in our tents with the sounds of the river next to us a welcome sleep aid.

The next morning we got up with anticipation of the coming ride. We would soon be entering the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and the weather was staying in our favor. Not a cloud in the sky. As we headed northeast on State 287 the scenery just kept getting more stunning as we cruised along. There was still very little traffic as the tourist season had yet to begin. We were now climbing higher and higher heading for Craig pass at 8,262 feet in the heart of Yellowstone Park. Near the pass we briefly saw what we are sure was a mountain lion dart across the road in front of us. It was very big and moved like a cat and the only other thing it could have been was a wolf. Wolves usually travel in groups and this thing had the movement of a cat. Very rare to see one, but we are quite sure that's what it was.

Yellowstone Park lived up to it's billing. I was quite impressed with stunning variety of terrain. A motorcycle is a great way to take it all in from the road. Of course we had fantastic weather for our ride through. We heard that some crummy stuff was coming in the next day.

As we rounded a bend in the road we saw a few cars stopped along side the road. In Yellowstone this usually means a moose, bear or wolves have been spotted. Sure enough as we rolled up I could see just off to my right in a big clearing a mother Grizzly with a brood of 3 new born cubs trailing behind. They were no more that 50 yards from the road ambling along towards to woods. Even in Yellowstone it's not a common sight to see a Grizzly so close and in plain view. And with 3 cubs in tow, this was surely a treat! I always had my digital video camera in my tank bag at the ready so I stopped and took some very nice video of the bears while sitting on my bike being mindful of the direction that the bears were taking. I did not want to get too close to a mama bear with 3 new cubs.

Yellowstone was just incredible and I would have loved to linger there for the whole day but we were just passing through and had a lot of ground to cover. We did stop once more to get some good shots of a herd of buffalo grazing next to the road and then we were on our way again enjoying the open road.

As we left the Yellowstone area we just stayed on State 287 which took us into southwest Montana and into some simply gorgeous open ranch land. I just can't describe the magnitude of the majesty of this land as we followed swollen rivers through endless valleys with hardly a car to be seen. Everything was mostly very green with all the recent rain. In the huge valley just east of the Bitterroot range we rolled into the sleepy ranch town of Wisdom MT. It was about 6:30. We were hoping to make it to Salmon ID on the other side of the Bitterroots that evening but this quiet little western town out of the past had a certain charm that would not appeal to the average tourist. We turned off our engines, scanned the surroundings not ignoring the clouds gathering over the mountains, and mutually came upon the same conclusion....we can hang here awhile.   

Seeing a sign on the corner that led us to believe we could be put up for the night and went in to enquire. We found ourselves in this nice old couples living room getting the keys to a room at the small lodging establishment they ran. After unpacking we walked down what seemed to be the only paved road in town to the local bar/restaurant hoping to treat ourselves to a cold sample of the local beverage. We were not disappointed. We sat outside in the gathering evening watching the hundreds of barn swallows swarming around an old two story building that seemed to be the place to be if you were a swallow. Other than a dog barking in the distance or the sounds of the swallows it was completely still. We sat there for about 90 minutes leaned up against the building sipping our beverage taking in the changing colors of the sky in the middle of this magnificent valley feeling very fortunate to be here.

The next morning we awoke to another completely clear sky. How long was our good fortune going to last? We wasted no time packing our gear and hitting the road. Our plan was to cross the Bitterroots into Idaho and stop at the town of Salmon for breakfast. The ride from Wisdom to Salmon was just more of the same. Stunning. Hardly any traffic at all. Just wide open expanse and a Concours riders dream. We had a great morning ride and pulled into Salmon for breakfast.

From hear on out through Idaho, all I can say is this was for me by far the best part of the trip. This time of year there simply was hardly anybody out on the road. We were usually following a river which meant the road was just killer motorcycling stuff. If you haven't gone through this part of Idaho, put it on the top of your wish list.

Leaving Salmon we went through Challis and then took state 75 into the town of Stanley which is at the foot of the Sawtooth mountain range and a ways north of Sun Valley ID. We got some lunch there (yes, another buffalo burger) and got informed that there was a gathering storm brewing to the south that was headed our way. We gassed up and hit the road westward on state 21 to connect with state 55 that would take us north towards McCall ID and eventually Lewiston at the doorstep of Washington.

Heading north on State 55 towards McCall the riding was again just stunning. What a great road. Everything you could hope for in a great ride.
As we neared McCall we saw that our good weather had run it's course and we were gonna get hammered. It was about 4:30pm and right in our path we could see the sky turning that nasty black color which could only mean one thing. Thunderstorm. Soon we could see the lightning bolts hitting the ground up ahead and we knew we didn't have long. The rain didn't worry me nearly as much as the lightning. As the flashes got closer I motioned to my riding partner that we needed to pull over. We pulled off underneath a big drive through that was connected to a church to wait things out. The rain started coming down in buckets as we sat there under the protection of the drive through. Eventually the rain began to let up a bit and it seemed like the lightning had moved off a ways so we got back on the road and drove into McCall.

Just as we got into McCall things took another turn for the worse. It was getting dark again, the rain was increasing and then we saw a group of emergency vehicles speed by heading up the road in the same direction we were going. That was enough for us. We had just passed a Motel 8 so we turned around and stopped to get a room just as a torrential rain began to hit us, even flooding some of the roads. We heard later that there was marble size hail covering the road up ahead that had caused some big accident. Okay, where's the beer. We walked a couple a blocks to a nice mexican restaurant only to find we were the only ones in the place. McCall is a vacation spot. Like I said this is the time to ride through these parts.

The next day we awoke to a light drizzle, however the forecast was for improving weather. We had some morning chow, packed up, donned our rain gear and headed out to see what awaited us. The road from McCall to Lewiston was another stellar ride. The rain did eventually subside and we had another memorable run. I knew that in the middle of summer things would be different and we would be fighting summer traffic. The first week in June is simply a great time to do this even though you are taking more of a risk with the weather.

We finally pulled into Lewiston about noon and realized our marathon ride was coming to a close. Washington was just over the bridge and then it wouldn't be far to get back to the barn. We stopped for some lunch in Lewiston and got the map out to plot our way across Washington. I was determined to avoid the interstate so I plotted a route that would take us on the 2 lane highways northwest across the heartland of Washington to eventually cross over I-90 and then pick up one of the state highways that cross the Cascade mountains.

Mike was beginning to get a little antsy about getting back home now that we could "smell" it. I couldn't blame him. We had been on the road for 8 days now and we had gotten to know each other a little more than we really needed to. We were saddle sore, a little weary and looking forward to the comforts of home. All in all, we had had a great ride and if it ended right here we would be satisfied.

The ride from Lewiston to where we met up with I-90 was another simply great road except for the wind. We had encountered quite a bit of wind along the way, especially down in Wyoming and Utah. But this was ridiculous! We hit some gusts that nearly blew us off the road! It was really a shame because the road would have been a super motorcycle experience had it been less windy. As it was, it took all we had to maintain control of our bikes at certain times.

We finally came up to I-90 which is a main freeway that crosses the entire country. By this time Mike had had enough with the wind and all and informed me that he was heading for the barn on the I-90. I didn't want to end the trip by spending the next 4 hours fighting the wind and truck traffic on the freeway, so I rode with him for a few miles until I came to the Wenatchee turn off and we parted ways.

I was riding solo now and back on a 2 lane highway headed north to Wenatchee and then to the lakeside town on Chelan to spend the night. I was riding in familiar territory now on the eastern side of the Cascades and felt at home even though I was still about 150 miles away. The wind began to subside and I had an enjoyable ride into Chelan and found a cheap motel for the night.

A very hard rain woke me up about 4:30 in the morning. Oh well. I went back to sleep and got up about 6:30 to find that the rain had stopped. It actually was looking like a fine day for my final day of the trip. Even though I was very familiar with the route I was now on I was feeling very good about the final day of riding. This part of Washington doesn't take a back seat to any roads as far as great motorcycling is concerned. I got into the groove and powered on marveling at how great the big Connie was still performing after more than three thousand miles of daily cruising.

I wound my way up through the Methow valley into the western theme town of Winthrop to take a little break before heading up into the Cascade mountains via the North Cascade Highway (20). I was looking forward to this last leg of the trip. The North Cascade highway is a local favorite among motorcyclists here in Washington. It is simply a road that's made for leaning into the twisties with no shortage of stunning scenery.

I left Winthrop about 11:00am heading west. It doesn't get any better than this. There simply was no traffic. I really had the throttle on and I think I passed only 2 cars the entire way over the pass. I have never ridden that road with so little traffic. I felt I had the whole thing to myself. It had only opened for travel a few weeks before on account of the extremely heavy snow fall this winter, however the road itself was snow free and dry. It did get a bit chilly as I neared the top of the pass with plenty of snow alongside the road. Down the other side I encountered our typical low clouds although it never did rain on me.

Still trying to avoid the freeways I took a little traveled back road through the town of Darrington until finally relenting and picking up I-5 for about 40 minutes as I headed south into the Seattle area. After a little while my exit was upon me and I got off the freeway feeling a bit surreal. In about 4 more minutes I was pulling into my driveway. Hmmm.... that was interesting.  ;)

video link of trip:
Northwest Ride

2002 Connie with Givi trunk, Avon tires,  7th gear mod, Heli bars, Throttlemeister, Rifle windscreen, and other junk. Love to pack up and hit the road. Thank goodness I'm recent retiree. :-)

Offline Ranger

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 08:56:23 pm »
The following is a couple of things about the Connie that one can only appreciate on a trip of this nature.
We averaged 10 to 12 hours a day in the saddle, so we found out where the weaknesses were in our comfort range. I did not have highway pegs. For the next trip of this nature, I will have them. My knees began to ache and I found myself sometimes sticking a leg up on the side of the cowling just to get a different position.

I have a stock seat with a gel type "Pro pad" strapped on top. For the average ride this suits me just fine. Very comfortable. This was not your average ride. For this kind of riding I don't think you can go too far in the quality of seat you use. I will be looking into getting a Russell type seat ordered.

I have a Throttle Meister cruise control. Don't even think of doing this kind of trip without some kind of throttle lock. I seriously don't know If I could have completed the trip without one.

Okay, now for the windscreen. This is a little complex. I use a Rifle windscreen with the lower of  the three options. I don't really like the idea of looking through plexiglass while riding so I look over the windscreen. This still makes for some wind buffeting that is not that bad except for the wind noise. I have come to the conclusion that it's actually easier on your ears to have your face completely out on the wind blast than behind a windscreen that creates buffeting. Yes, if you lower your head far enough you may get into a very quiet spot behind the screen, but there again your looking through it, not over it. I am seriously considering just using a drastically cut down windscreen that puts my head completely in the wind blast but with no buffeting. I am convinced this is easier on the ears. (yes, I always wear foam insert type ear plugs.) Last year I rode a naked BMW on a similar trip and did not feel that the wind noise was a problem.

Lastly, I would have stopped more often to hydrate. I think some of the fatigue we encountered was due to mild dehydration.

Some may say that's what we get for staying in the saddle so long. Well, I wasn't out there to stop and enjoy all the sites along the way. We were out there to ride. That's what we did.  :-\
2002 Connie with Givi trunk, Avon tires,  7th gear mod, Heli bars, Throttlemeister, Rifle windscreen, and other junk. Love to pack up and hit the road. Thank goodness I'm recent retiree. :-)

Offline shokdimn

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2011, 09:34:17 am »
Went straight to the video before reading your posts.

My compliments on that video.  May I say, FINE—REAL FINE!  :thumbs: Gotta watch that one again.  Thx for sharing.

Looks like ya’ll had a grand adventure.

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Offline Dan

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2011, 12:22:39 pm »

Well I am planning on doing part of that trip, from boulder up to yellowstone, across to washington and then down rt 1 to san diego, leaving pa in 10 days, i will be using ur tips..  also I have a russel, and a clearview... it does real well for me, no buffet, and I just look over it, also got the locker and h way pegs.  I will be in touch.  Dan in pa./.

Offline Conrad

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2011, 01:51:54 pm »

Great ride report and video. For the most part it sounded like you were in heaven, for a little while at least.

Watching those bears brought a big smile to my face.

Thanks for sharing.
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Offline ZG

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2011, 08:46:57 pm »
Wow!! Great video Ranger, thanks for sharing!  :thumbs: :thumbs:

Offline C1xRider

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2011, 11:04:49 pm »

  Excellent write up and video.  Definitely a big thanks for all the time it took to put it together.  I really enjoyed reading it, as it brought back a lot of memories of past trips through most of where you were.

  I lived in central Wyoming for many years, so I know many of the routes you took quite well.  In fact, I stopped at the Kawasaki dealer in Lander Wy when I passed through there last summer on my C14.  I saw the guy out washing a new 2010 like mine, so I did a quick U-turn.  I couldn't talk him into washing my bike though. :)   So did he have a 2011 out front?  Hopefully he sold the 2010 (I'm sure he did).

  I came back through Stanley, McCall, and down through Hells Canyon last year, and it's all great through there.  I try to encourage everyone to take the extra miles to see those roads, and get off the Interstates.  There's just so much fantastic country out that way, and so many roads that were just made for motorcycles.

  I'll have to recruit you as a tour guide when I get up to your area.  I haven't been north of Seattle on a bike (yet), and I really want to do a trip over Highway 20.  Now that I've seen it in your video, I'll move it up on the list!

  If you plan to come south to see the Columbia Gorge, or just down this way, let me know and I'll play tour guide!  I know all kinds of fantastic back roads on both sides of the Cascades.
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Offline okxd45

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Re: Trip report, 7 western states. 3,500 miles.
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2011, 11:50:46 pm »
Thank you for sharing........thoroughly enjoyed!  Still think Washington State is the most beautiful. :)
"Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under 't." Macbeth Quote (Act I, Scene V).
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16 NIV)