Sunday, September 25, 2011

Teton National Park -> Vail, Colorado...

I decided that I wasn't going to get anymore sleep anyway so I might as well get up and get things packed up and hit the road.  The temperature had dipped well below freezing while I'd slept.  The cold made its way to my core throughout the night.  The 0° F rating on my down sleeping bag was no match for these Rocky Mountain fall nights.  The entire outside of the tent was covered in frost and Shamu was too.

When I'd finished packing up all my camping gear and fired up the LT, the thermometer read 28° F at 8:00am.  It made me wonder how low it had gotten overnight since the sun had already begun to crest the mountains to the east.

I rode out of the chilly campground with the seat heater and heated handgrips on their highest settings.  A group of buffalo munched on yellow grasses with Grand Teton looking over them.  I rode the quick ten minutes or so into Jackson and stopped off at JHOrganics for a smoothie and a breakfast burrito.  I'd been eating so many hamburgers and fries that I was craving something healthy.  The 'In the blue' smoothie was just the answer.  With loads of fresh fruit and a bunch of health supplements blended in, I'd be lucky if my system didn't go into shock.

I rode south on US Highway 191 heading first to Hoback Junction and then onward towards Rock Springs.  The sunlight was lighting Hoback Canyon nicely and some of the trees even were showing some color, the first I'd seen since the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia.  Sweet smells of autumn sage filled my nostrils as I rode through the high desert plateau.

I fueled up in Rock Springs, opted for a longer but more scenic route, heading west on I-80 for a couple miles and then rejoining US 191 south along the eastern side of Flaming Gorge.  The Uinta mountains are low and rounded and look more like foothills than mountains.  But the multicolored canyons in the area are spectacular.  As I made my way toward Vernal, UT, I descended down through layers of rock and time, crossed over the Flaming Gorge Dam and then climbed again through various layers of geology and the Earth's history that they represent.  When I got into Vernal it was downright hot.

I knew I had a long way to go before I'd be in Vail.  Once I got into the wide open sagebrush desert of Northwestern Colorado, I decided I'd open up the throttle a bit and make up some time.  I'd passed a couple of Wyoming Sheriffs back north of Rock Springs doing well over the speed limit and they'd paid me no mind.  I started wondering if Shamu was maybe invisible.  I'd already spent plenty of time imagining that I was riding a giant flying whale through the desert, but now it had evolved another level.  I was riding an invisible flying whale!  (What was in that smoothie anyway?)

So off I went flying along US 40 headed towards Craig and eventually Steamboat Springs.  I was clipping along between 100 - 120 mph enjoying the wide open expansiveness all around.  I could see for miles.  I scanned the roadside for animals and kept pressing on.  The big LT was as rock solid and steady as ever.  A virtual pavement crushing time machine.  I'd be in Vail in no time.

About ten minutes later it all went wrong.  Something had caught my eye in my mirror; I thought I saw headlights flashing.  Not the car behind me but the one behind that.  I thought for a moment that it could be the heat coming off the desert floor making the lights appear to be flashing.  That thought lasted only a second.  I physically turned my head to get a better look.  Nope they're definitely flashing, and there's some pretty blue and red ones flashing inside the windshield and radiator grille too.

Contrary to my desert driven delusions, neither does Shamu fly nor is she invisible.  At least not in Colorado.  I pulled over immediately.  I was off the bike with my helmet off before the pickup truck even made it around the car that was between us.  Sheriff Shock, no joke that was his name, jumped out of his pickup truck, hand resting on his handgun.  "Do you know how fast you were going?"

"No sir, I'm not really sure." I said, not lying totally. "But I'm willing to guess you do."

"Well I clocked you at 87 mph when I was coming towards you, and then I got you at 90 mph while I was chasing you.  It took me quite a while to catch up to you and I was moving pretty fast."

I'm sure he was ready for an argument or a denial of some sort and was probably wondering why I'd just pulled over when he was still a quarter of a mile behind me.  Plain and simple, I thought he'd got me when I was still well over a hundred.  "Thank god he only got me at 90!" was what I was thinking.

I apologized, tried to make some feeble excuses about how it was so wide open and finally I was somewhere where I didn't have to worry about tons of animals.  That didn't go very far.  He quickly informed me that I was in the best trophy elk hunting grounds in the nation.  He asked for my license.  I handed him my Colorado driver's license.  He squinted a bit looking at the license and then my Alaska license plate... then at me.  "So what's going on here?" he asked about my mismatched license and license plate.  I explained best that I could but it didn't really help, neither did the fact that none of my paperwork really matched the bike and that when he ran my license plate it didn't come up to this bike, or any particular bike either.  Lucky for me, Sheriff Shock was a rider himself, believed my story and let me go with a ticket for $167 for exceeding the speed limit by 10-19mph.  I thanked him for reducing the speed and handed him a business card with my blog address written on the back.  I told Sheriff Shock if he made it to Fairbanks he should pay us a visit.

"If you don't pay that ticket, I just might have to," he said with a smile and shook my hand before heading off the other direction looking for more people to 'protect and serve.'

Needless to say I spent the rest of the afternoon riding within 5 mph of the speed limit all the way down Colorado 131 to Wolcott.  I zipped up I-70 excited to see friends and family in the Vail Valley for the night.  Another incredible day.

I have to admit that I'm starting to wear down.  The last hour today seemed like an eternity.  These big mileage days are starting take their toll on me.  But with only a couple more days until Laura arrives in Grapevine, I've got lots of miles left to go.

Next up:  Vail, Colorado -> Pagosa Springs, ColoradoPagosa Springs -> Amarillo, TexasAmarillo -> Grapevine, TX

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm...good thing you weren't riding a loud HD, you'd be late and eating jail food. Fortunately, you can meet the nicest people on a BMW.

    Might have gone like this: Let's see...1099 DN exp 12/11...what bike is this?...and who are you really, Mr. Kleiter? Please step over here and spread 'em.

    Oh well, just another adventure.