Colorado! May/June 2011
Posted 05 June 2011 - 06:28 PM
Guess I'll just jump in... but first, a disclaimer:
This will NOT be an MSTS-specific thread. It WILL contain some train thoughts/ramblings as we go along... but mainly it will be a blog sharing our experiences with you concerning our Colorado trip we just took. Plus, if I complete it, it will be LONG and be in several installments. There will also be pictures... lots of them. This understood... let's go!!!
It was tough getting to sleep Friday before leaving on Saturday. I'm just like that. If I have a bike trip planned, whether a road trip or even a dirt foray... I'm all pumped and sometimes have a bit of a time getting to sleep. You would think after 42 years of riding bikes, I'd be over that by now, wouldn't you? However, riding now is just as much fun as it was "back when"... just a bit different is all.
Anyway, FINALLY morning arrives, and after a quick breakfast... we're off. Goal for today: Amarillo, TX, some 452 miles from our driveway here in eastern Oklahoma.
It started off as an easy day. Comfortable temps... light breezes... super. We quickly discovered we like the intercom system our new Harley Ultra Classic is equipped with. Like a trip in a cage (an auto or truck), you can have ongoing conversations as you move along. That's cool, seeing as Sharon and I enjoy talking on a trip.
We tooled along, happy to be on our way... FINALLY. As we traveled through western Oklahoma, the temps begin to rise. By the time we reached the Texas line, it was nearing 100 degrees, and more problematic was the wind was nearly a headwind, and blowing in the 25-30 MPH range... complete with gusts into the bizarre range!
However, we made Amarillo before 5 PM. MY plans were to get a room, have a leisurely evening, and a good night's rest... then hit it again the next day. This is because I didn't see any sense in wearing out Sharon trying to bonzai further into the trip. However, Sharon said she "felt great!"... and hated to stop so early. She wanted to proceed to Logan, NM, some 100 or so miles further and get a room there. I reminded her I didn't have any phone numbers for the Logan motels, and we'd be on our own once we arrived. Hey, it's early in the tourist season... rooms are plentiful... no problem... says she, so off we go headed west.
The temps soon become searing. The winds INCREASE. There were times I had to feather the throttle (instead of using cruise control)... to keep from working the engine so hard on the long high plains hills. I find out later I was dealing with 40 MPH winds with gusts higher. Temps were into the 102-104 range. It was TOUGH.
The miles drug by as we inched toward Logan, NM. FINALLY we arrive. We turn into the parking lot of the first motel... trucks w/boats on trailers were EVERYWHERE. (Ute Lake is nearby.) Tired, we enquire about a room. Sorry, no vacancy. We remount and ride cross the street to the next motel. There on the office was a "Vacancy" sign. Thank God!!! We'll take it!!
The man at the desk says, "sorry... we're full".
"Then you need to change the 'Vacancy' sign in your window", I said.
"What sign?" he querries.
I walk over to the window... get the sign and hand it to him...
"Oh", says he as he places it under the counter.
Off to the next motel.
Same deal. In fact, none of the four motels have rooms. Turns out the boaters and watersports folks were out in force for the Memorial Day weekend!!
Well... we had little choice: We had to go further, and OFF our route to find a room. Tucumcari, here we come.
By the time we arrived at Tucumcari, our butts were REALLY draggin'. It was nearly 8 o'clock our time... and we STILL hadn't eaten supper or had a room secured.
We pulled into the first motel and HALLELUJAH!!! They had a room! That done, it was off to the little ma & pa restaraunt we saw back at the crossroads and had some SUPER tacos with beans and rice. Great meal.
Once at the motel... it was shower time. Sharon first. Once she was finished, it was my turn. It felt SOOO good to be have the road grit off and be squeaky clean again... what's this????
Sharon is already out like a light! Yup... 8:30 PM and she's GONE!!
What a day. More than we bargained for... but we did it. Even though it was her call to proceed, she handled the grueling additional miles like a trooper.
Day One came to a close... hopefully, Day Two would be less surprising.
BUT... that's one of the things I like about bike trips: You never know what's going to happen!!!
It's an adventure from the time you leave the driveway!
Posted 05 June 2011 - 06:55 PM
Over the last few years, I have throughly enjoyed your narrative writing style.
I look forward to the next installment about your trip.
Posted 07 June 2011 - 04:33 PM
Click to view our Google Map route:
We were up and about around day break. Soon enough, we were ready to face the day (whatever it may bring!). Bike loaded, it was time to go eat a bite. We returned to our haunt of the night before. Great food again. As usual, I had my old standby: Biscuits n' gravy. (Ain't nothin' like a pile of sausage gravy on a couple of open faced cat head biscuits!)
We were familiar with our upcoming section, having traversed it many times over the years in one of our cages. However, THIS time, I assured her it would be very different. There's just something about riding a bike across open desolation that REALLY emphasizes one's insignificance in the scheme of things. Definitely puts a person in perspective.
Once leaving Logan, NM, it is nothing but high plains desert for miles and miles and... you get the idea! It is truly a neat experience to ride such vastness. You can get a glimpse of such openness from the first two pics.
Once we climbed the large mesa, the town of Mosquero appeared. Since passing through the last time, the town has really spruced themselves up! See the third pic!
From Mosquero, it was up to Roy... then over the high plains to Springer... then FINALLY: Cimarron, NM. Cimarron is a WONDERFUL place... because in just a few miles... one enters the Cimarron Canyon for the climb up to Eagle Nest. We LOVE Cimarrron Canyon, and experiencing it on a bike was better than expected! No trip through Cimarron Canyon would be complete for us unless we stopped to view the Palisades. (See pic.)
From the Palisades, we made the climb to Eagles Nest. It was at Eagles Nest we decided to look for a place to eat. Pulling into a likely place, we saw a small Chiquaqua (sp?) dog on the seat of a bike. Turns out this dog has ridden tens of thousands of miles with her owner! Couldn't help but take a pic of this!
From Eagles Nest, it was down the pass into Taos, NM, then across the Rio Grande valley. Immediately upon leaving Tres Piedres, we were climbing again. The higher we climbed, the more evidence of snow could be seen. Eventually, we reached our favorite hotel to stay at in Chama, NM.
A MUCH shorter day than Day One had been... and MUCH more enjoyable! Settled in at Chama... it was time to do a bit of exploring.
We'll get to that in the next installment!
Posted 07 June 2011 - 05:25 PM
As always, a great story with great pics to emphasize the point. Keep 'em coming!
Over the years, trips to Colorado and Utah have always been our favorites. The smell of the pines with the sound of the wind blowing through the boughs is one of the best stress relievers that I know of.
Looking forward to the next installment.
Posted 08 June 2011 - 05:52 PM
DAY TWO (Cont.)
Chama: The Town Of Magic
I cannot remember the times the wife and I have approached Chama on vacations. Without fail, EVERY TIME we near Chama, I get more and more anxious to see the last authentic remnant of Rocky Mountain narrow gauge railroading. This time was no different.
Crossing over the wye trackage as we entered Chama... once more I marveled at how SMALL and TOY LIKE the closely spaced rails looked. There on my right were the meticulously restored stock pens. Riding along on the main street, narrow gauge equipment could be seen lining the yard tracks. Ahead was the depot... and the engine service area.
Chama! We were here again at last!
We stayed at our favorite place, again. The "Hotel and Shops" is not a plush or opulent hotel, instead, it is modestly furnished with real antique furniture. The feel of the room is "forties" or early "fifties". But we both enjoy the ambiance of the place, as well as the upper level balcony on which we always enjoy in the evening.
A couple years ago, it was at the "Hotel and Shops" that we happened to be staying on the eve of a photographer's "freight train", to be run the following day. That evening, the passenger train had been running late, and once arrived, the power thereon was needed to switch up the freight for the following morning. This meant that steam powered switching was taking place RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET. We sat out on the balcony and savored the atmosphere and steam sights before us across the street. The switching went on into the late hours of the night. In fact, we retired to bed about 10 PM, and the switching was till taking place.
It was SUCH a TIME MACHINE to be laying there, window open... cool Rocky mountain breeze drifting into the room... and the soft "chuff chuff chuff" of a working steam engine could easily be heard, complete with restrained toots of the whistle signals. Great stuff.
Needless to say, I have had many, many "epiphany" type encounters at Chama.
But, that was then, this was now. "Now" meant no steam in Chama, for the Lobato Trestle was still being repaired, and it was to be at least another two weeks away before completion. Thus, Chama was silent of steam.
However, there was live steam at Cumbres!!
As soon as we unpacked and settled in, we jumped onto our Ultra and headed for Cumbres. As we climbed to the pass... it got colder and colder and...
By the time we got on top... I think it was in the lower forty degree range... complete with a cold wind! To say Sharon was chilled was an understatement! (Given the "short jaunt" status of our little foray, neither of us were truly dressed for such a dramatic temperature drop.)
It was a good sight to see narrow gauge steam simmering at Cumbres. The coal smoke smelled GREAT.
"Come on, hon... let's go over by the engine and you can warm up by the firebox", I said.
This we did... standing on the side protected from the wind... and warming nicely.
The Hostler came our way, oiling and checking the engine over. After a few pleasantries, he suggested we climb up on the cab and warm up even better!
This we did... and it was very evocative to be in the cab of a live steam engine again after so many years. I talked with the Hostler a bit, asking about the brake systems, etc. As we talked, I shared an idea I've had with him:
Sharon and I have discussed that, after we are on railroad retirement, to "hire out" for a season with the C&T. They hire seasonal help each year. Given some of the Youtube videos I have viewed concerning the C&T's new hire orientation/training, I suspect finding seasonal help with as much railroading experience as I have had is not easy.
Odd though, I do NOT want to run the engine. Instead, I had rather work as a Head End Brakeman. Easier work, much less serious responsibility, and the ability to be out and about and see the engine at work, instead of being captive to the cab, as would be the case with an engineman job.
We figure the minor wages I would receive would pay for our rental place, and we live and play on our retirement income. We would be at Chama from about two weeks before the season opens on Memorial Day, to about mid-October. Sounds GREAT! And we just may try to do this.
However, I digress...
The Hostler indicated the C&T would DEFINITELY be interested in using me... for this year they were short handed (especially in Engineers). So, it just might be a viable possibility!
(FWIW: A couple years ago at Chama, I happened upon the C&T General Manager. I mentioned idea this to him. He gave me his card and indicated that they would definitely be interested in using me as a seasonal. Cool!)
Eventually, we climbed out of the warm cab... and made the trek from Cumbres back down to Chama.
We spent the rest of the evening sitting on the balcony and simply enjoying each others company. I am so blessed to have a wife that enjoys some of the same things I enjoy!!
Well... all for now. I'm going to leave you with a couple of pictures of the views you get from the balcony at the "Hotel and Shops". Now you can see why this is my favorite place to stay!!
Posted 09 June 2011 - 08:26 AM
Many years ago, probably in 2004, I fixed up Roger Hogan (hotelier extraordinaire) with a link to purchase MSTS. Then I led him to the available Colorado NG routes on trainsim. I often wondered how long he stuck with it...
Didja git a ride in the camo Ess-Yew-Vee?
Posted 10 June 2011 - 06:06 PM
Posted 16 June 2011 - 09:53 AM
Good morning! It's 11:52 AM CST... early morning to me! Slept yesterday until after noon!
Was working on the next installment of this photo-blog, but went to a night shift rotation for the next two weeks (at least). Working 11.5 hrs and 12 hrs per nights. All I'm getting done is working and sleeping. I don't do night shifts as well as I did 20 or 30 years ago!
It may be a while before I get to piddle with other stuff, this little essay included.
Posted 02 July 2011 - 11:34 AM
Had I known about Roger and MSTS, I would have asked. And no, I didn't get to ride in the camo SUV!
Glad you're enjoying this little photo essay w/blog! Obviously, it remains to be seen whether or not I will ever seriously pursue living in Chama for a season... but it's fun to dream about it! As for keeping things in perspective: Any more I find myself only interested in rail history from waaaay back when. Seeing as the railroading that was is so far removed from what I do daily... it's like an entirely different world.
It was good visiting with you at the A&M the other night. Take care!
Been busy with some projects... haven't taken the time to update this thread.
I shall endeavor to do so!
And now... I continue...
We arose to overcast skies. It was pretty nippy, too. I think the air temp was in the low 40's at Chama. At our destination of Silverton, the forecast was calling for a HIGH of 41 degrees! This could get interesting.
After a hearty breakfast (biscuits n' gravy, of course!)... it was suit up, fuel up, and start toward Pagosa Springs.
Having finished fueling, I was running up through the gears leaving the convenience store and headed west on US 64 when I noticed that awful look of RAIN. Yup, off to our right, coming over the mountains of the Cumbres Pass area... it was obvious rain was headed our way. Speaking into the intercom, I told Sharon to look to her right. About that time, light rain starts hitting the windscreen.
Decision time: Turn around a wait it it out... or try to outrun it? I pull over... and start back toward the convenience store. Then I scanned the northeast horizon again and... maybe... just maybe... I could outrun it. We decided to go for it!
Turning around quickly, we were off and running! I dabbled a mite with the posted speed limit... but desperate times call for desperate measures!!
Soon, the sprinkles hitting the windscreen stopped. Lighter looking sky was ahead... I think we've done it! Sure 'nuf, I outran the oncoming rain storm and skirted it's westernmost front.
The temps were NOT warming up. By the time we got to Pagosa Springs, we were chilled. Finding a convenience store that looked promising, we went inside and both of us got a cup of hot chocolate. MMmmm. THAT hit the spot! Seeing as we had a short day today, we decided to thoroughly warm up before we hit the road again. We had all of our "warm" layers on... and it still wasn't quite good enough. (Note to self: Plan better next time.)
We chit-chatted with the young lady that worked at the store. She indicated that everybody in Pagosa Springs and elsewhere were sick of the lingering winter-like weather. They were beginning to feel like winter was never going to end!
As we got ready to leave, up comes a group of bikes coming from the direction of Durango... the direction we would be heading.
"How's the weather behind you?" I asked.
"We're staying dry... just a few snow showers is all". Came the reply.
After they left, there was yet ANOTHER group of bikes that came in from the Durango direction. These guys (and gals) were HARD CORE. They were on hot-rod bikes and only wearing some leather riding gear and bandannas. No windscreens to be seen! They were headed for Wolf Creek Pass! They lived in Denver. Tough group! They too, reported no rain... only some snow and the roads were dry.
Lastly, a husband and wife rode up on their touring bike from the Durango direction and begin to fuel. Same question... same answer. Good, things weren't deteriorating. As we talked, they indicated that Independence Pass was indeed open. (When we left Oklahoma, it was still questionable whether they would get it open in time.) He said lots of snow up top... but the roads were open. Great! Independence Pass was on our "gotta' ride" list if at all possible.
Sounds like all we needed to do was survive today... for the weather was to start improving beginning tomorrow. We just need to endure today's cold.
Having a brain storm, I opened up one of the side boxes and retrieved our rain suits.
"Here 'ya go... put this on!"
"Think it's going to rain ahead?" Sharon asked.
"This is to help stop the wind from getting through", I replied.
Sure 'nuf... that added level of wind stoppage did the trick and we rode in much better comfort as we headed for Durango.
As the miles slid by, the BEST news of all was there was blue sky beginning to be seen! By the time we reached Durango, it was partly cloudy with periods of bright sunshine!
Our anticipation level went up as we left Durango behind and headed up Coal Bank Pass. Ahead we could see snow capped San Juans waiting for us to enjoy. WOW!!! Now THIS is why we love Colorado! As we climbed Coal Bank Pass, then begin up Molas Pass, the views were spectacular and the snow covered mountains were fabulous! It was almost like being in Colorado in the winter! (We've never been to Colorado during the winter.)
As we climbed, and climbed, and climbed... the temp got colder, and colder, and colder!! Once up top of Molas, it was something like 29 degrees as I recall! Very "nippy", to say the least.
However, Sharon was a champ and we made it to one of our favorite places: Silverton.
First order of business was to settle in at the Triangle Motel... then it was off to see some trains (the D&S was still in town)... then to eat at our favorite Silverton place: The Brown Bear Cafe.
However, we'll cover those adventures next time!
1. The view of the San Juans ahead as we leave Durango.
2. Atop Molas Pass. Looks, cold, huh? It IS!
3. One of our favorite Colorado towns: Silverton! This is the view down Main Street from our motel.