ICU Grand Junction and Beyond
This is the third story in a series: a story of five men riding to Sturgis, South Dakota, like so many others have done before, except now we were just four. In the last episode, we left the hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, with one man down. Chad lost his arm on CO-141 and we still had to make it to Sturgis and back. In Grand Junction we'd become a quintet again, with Andy Cherney (editor of Motorcycle Cruiser) joining us fresh from the Harley-Davidson new model launch and riding a sweet new '10 Ultra Limited 103 (if you get a chance to ride one, I highly recommend it). Andy's addition brought us back up to five, but this was supposed to be the "pounding miles and shooting photos" portion of the trip, with all the bikes and riders present...but we were all too emotionally wiped for that. Plus Chad got out of ICU in another day, and we weren't missing that for the world. Just 600 miles to Sturgis...
Day 5: Colorado National Monument
We had a choice. Give up, fly home, and ship the bikes back to LA, or keep on going. But this is not the end of the story. After Chad's crash it would be a couple of days before he emerged from the Grand Junction ICU, and since we wanted to see him before we moved on, we decided to stick around. We asked locals and scoped out on the internet what might be a good spot to ride for the next couple days. We came up with Colorado National Monument. It's a monument most have never heard of, which is criminal.
We had to take pictures of all the bikes we were riding, which made the next day a photo day, since traveling and photography don't always mix. Rim Rock Road is a 23-mile snake that winds through the bottom of sheer canyons, climbs the sides of, and even tunnels through the steep, colorful cliff sides. After our recent experiences with twisting roads and wind, we went strictly by the low, posted speed limits, which was a good thing with bicyclists sharing the rather narrow tarmac with us.
Caution didn't keep Junior (aka, the Freshman) from dropping the Victory Vision. The Jetsonmobile is my favorite touring bike, but it is not made for short dudes. In a group of guys over 6 feet tall, Junior looked like an Oompa Loompa. Thankfully, the Victory had outriggers to keep it from going over and saved him from actually hurting himself (or the bike), but we'd later find out that the outriggers are a mixed blessing, at least to the tragically small.
We didn't have a great ride, as I kept stopping the group to shoot photos. I had the guys ride through a tunnel with soaring negative-angle cliffs all around us at least 15 times so I could get the perfect shot. We took a break outside the tunnel with our bikes parked next to the cliff face. When a ranger pulled up we thought we were busted for parking illegally, or doing a photoshoot, or something, but she was super-cool, and just told us that hanging out under the cliffs is a good way to get buried in rock. We moved on.
There's a great viewpoint that's easy to miss. It's off the main road, on the loop that circles around the campgrounds near the visitor's center. You'll find a shelter there, and a trail that takes you right to the edge of the cliff. It's a good stop to watch twinkle toes (Junior) drop the bike (again).
It took us most of the day to ride through the park. It should take the average person an hour to do the loop, not counting pullouts. Never go on a ride with a professional photographer. These guys suck. I should know, I am the photo guy that everyone loves to hate. I never said that I was a good photographer, just a lucky one. The more I shoot, the better my odds. It may not have been much of a riding day, but it was like we had all hit the "reset" button by taking a day of leisurely riding, surrounded by glorious scenery, with little pressure to cover miles.
That night we drank heartily, and I didn't get stuffed into the corner next to the bed.