The first of many meetings

Day 40 Monday 12th August 2013 – Denver, CO to Glenwood Springs, CO

There’s no rest for the wicked. Doreen had endured two long flights, from Edinburgh to Toronto, and Toronto to Denver, and then a night with me, but we had ground to cover, so there were no long lie-ins.

The first order of business was to sort out the luggage. I needed to lose about two thirds of my luggage to make room for Doreen and her stuff on the Trooper. The camping gear, kilt and New Rocks take up a lot of room and they were things I knew I would be sending on, but I also had to lose about half my clothes. I resent the time spent on laundry on the road, so I’d brought enough so that I only had to do it every two weeks. Now I was going to be back to weekly laundry, and that is despite the amazing frugality of Doreen’s own packing. I have never known a woman pack so light, especially since this was going to be a 4 week trip for her, but then Doreen is no ordinary woman, else I wouldn’t have married her. On this trip, she was certainly going to be earning her road warrior stripes.

We had had a bit of a running joke in the run-up to her coming over to Sturgis in 2011. She had been threatening to buy leather chaps and a holster to put her hair straightners in after I’d explained just how little luggage capacity there actually was on the bike with both of us on it. There is more than enough space when it is just me on the bike, as I just sling a couple of dry-bags over the passage seat, but with two of us, we lose the dry-bags and we also have to split the remaining space between both of us.

My luggage set-up for the trip – HD touring bag, saddle-bags, 2 dry-bags, tank-bag and roll bag on front forks. Plenty of space for one.                      From Texas, July 2013

Doreen never did buy those chaps or a holster, and the hair-straightners stayed in Edinburgh in 2011, much to her chagrin when she saw all the Sturgis ladies who’d trailered into town using theirs in the shower block at our campsite. This time she’d brought the tiniest set of straightners I’d ever seen. They wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Barbie doll set.

My plan for the excess luggage was to Fed-Ex it to Nashville, where Doreen would be departing from in 4 weeks time. Fed-Ex advertise a ship-and-hold service, whereby you can ship it to a Fed-Ex office, who will hold your parcel for later collection.

As soon as we had worked out exactly what would fit on the Trooper, I took the remaining luggage along to the Fed Ex office near Denver airport, but within a minute of arriving the lady behind the desk had disabused me of my cunning plan. Fed Ex do indeed offer a ship-and-hold service, but they will only hold it for 1 week, not the 4 weeks I needed. As there was no way the both of us could fit on the Trooper with all the luggage, I had to come up with a plan B. I briefly considered just ditching the excess, and whilst I could live without the camping gear now Sturgis was done, I was really loathe to get rid of my kilt and New Rocks. A good kilt costs upward of £300 (or $450), and since I’d bought it and worn it for my wedding, it had sentimental value too.

It was time to try asking for a favour from one of my Sturgis friends. I called Kyle and asked if I could ship my luggage to his home. Kyle lives about an hour or two west of Kansas City. I needed to be in Kansas City for Iron Maiden on the Saturday after Doreen leaves for Edinburgh. I could collect my luggage from Kyle’s when I went out for Maiden, and I was already planning on visiting him when I was in his neck of the woods in any case. Of course, Kyle said it was no problem sending my stuff to him. Did I mention in my Sturgis posts that Kyle is a great bloke?

With my luggage problem solved, I rode back to the hotel to collect Doreen and we were on the road to Glenwood Springs by 10.30am. The original plan had been to detour off the interstate and ride a scenic loop up through the Arapaho National Forest.

For an interstate, the I-70 is pretty good in the scenery department. As soon as you get out of Denver, you begin to be treated to some great mountain vistas. We made our first caffeine stop at Idaho Falls, and there can’t be many Starbucks that boast such a wooded, mountain back-drop. Nor McDs for that matter, which was just across the road.

From Colorado, August 2013
From Colorado, August 2013

We stopped at Starbucks a while, so that I could get a blog post finished – still catching up on Sturgis I’m afraid rather than telling it as it (almost) happened. And unfortunately, as I’m writing this in New Orleans, I’m now several weeks behind.

As we got on the road again, I glanced at the clouds looming to the west – our direction of travel, and we very optimistically decided to wait a while to see how things turned out rather than putting our wet weather gear on immediately. Only 5 minutes along the road and the rain caught us, and not just a little. It tipped down, with thunder and lightning on the side. We pulled off the freeway, but too late, my jeans were soaked through, to the extent that water was running down my legs and into my waterproof boots. Waterproof boots don’t help when attacked from above, and being waterproof, they keep water in, as well as out, so wouldn’t dry out in a hurry. I’d have damp feet for the next couple of days, and the smell to go with it. Doreen had faired a little better. There is no faring on the Trooper so I get the full brunt of both the rain and the spray from the road, but my legs protect the passenger somewhat.

Despite already being wet, we still scrambled into our wet weather gear. It must have been quite a comical sight for the passing motorists, with the both of us perched on rocks like performing sea-lions, trying to pull on our stubborn waterproofs.

We were lucky the rain didn’t last more than an hour, but cloud cover persisted on and off for the rest of the day.

From Colorado, August 2013

We continued our soggy climb up into the Rockies, and through the Eisenhower Tunnel. At over 11,000 feet above sea level, the tunnel takes I-70 under the continental divide. Despite the cloud cover, I was still wearing shades, which had to get rapidly pulled down to sit on the end of my nose as we passed through the better part of a mile and a half of tunnel.

The other side of Breckenridge, we pulled off for the obligatory scenic photos.

From Colorado, August 2013
From Colorado, August 2013
From Colorado, August 2013

As a kid I used to ski, something I took up when I lived at the foot of Monte Terminillo in Italy for a while. The two American ski resorts I’d heard most about are Vail and Aspen, so I couldn’t resist pulling off the freeway as we passed by Vail to satisfy my curiosity. Now I may be missing the point about Vail, but it seemed like a sprawl of exclusive “ski villages”, without any real heart or soul to the town. I do like a town to have a centre.

The original intention to detour up into the Arapaho National Forest, had been dispelled by the earlier rain, but we weren’t disappointed by travelling on the interstate. As we approached Glenwood Springs – our destination for the night – we passed through Glenwood Canyon and had the first of many meetings with the Colorado River, the river that carved the Grand Canyon. This wasn’t the first time we had encountered the Colorado River, in 2011 we had stayed at Grand Lake – the headwaters of the river, and I had caught up with it several more times on that trip, but it was the first time we had seen it this trip.

From Colorado, August 2013
From Colorado, August 2013

The stretch of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon was apparently the toughest 12 miles of the Interstate system.

From Colorado, August 2013

We’d reserved our motel for the night online when we stopped in Vail. The Starlight Lodge is a £59 a night, “Mom and Pop” motel, and one that is on the better side of average. I much prefer to stay at these independents, rather than the big corporates. The Ramada hotel across the road was charging $135 a night, and from my point of view, the main differences were that I can’t park my bike in front of the room, and I might have got more complimentary toiletries.

From Colorado, August 2013

After checking into the motel, we were both in need of a beer. It’s thirsty work riding all day, especially with jet-lag. We headed over the foot bridge across the Colorado River, and into the downtown with the shops and restaurants. Glenwood Springs turned out to be a pleasant stop, it’s a spa town nestling in the mountains, and we got the occasional waft of sulphur from the springs as we crossed the river.

We were looking for a place with good beer and wifi, as I was still determined not to get behind with the blog, as happened last time when Doreen arrived (as you can see from the posting date I have again failed with this). After walking around the main part of town, Pullmans seemed to fit the bill. The menu was more varied than most, and consisted of seasonal local produce. They had good local beer too.

From Colorado, August 2013

Whilst I tried bashing out another blog post, Doreen got to chatting to folks sitting next to her at the bar – a couple from Cortez, CO. I was wearing my Rob Zombie Sturgis T-shirt, which always attracts comments. It turns out Doreen’s new bar buddies, were Sturgis regulars, so of course, I had to stop typing to join the chat. They told us that they had seen wild-fire on the way up from Aspen. Whilst this wasn’t directly in our path, it was a little worrying. The only time American wild-fires get reported in the British media, is when they are out-of-control, and I guess that is how I imagine all wild fires to be.

When we had got into the Pullman, it had been rammed. Glenwood Springs is a tourist town and it was still peak season. Our first drinks had taken quite a while to arrive as our bar tender had been making fancy cocktails. We hadn’t minded, as we were in no hurry, but our bar tender had, and she got Doreen a complimentary wine. This is not something that I ever recall happening in Britain, but Doreen had seen it before when she lived in San Francisco. If the bar tender feels they need to make up for some short-coming, or perhaps just because they like you, or more probably because you spend well, then they’ll get you one on the house. This is good service, and it is great that the bar tenders are empowered to do this. It is very rare in the UK, unless perhaps it is a small local. It’s no wonder Americans complain about the service they receive when visiting Europe, especially the UK.

But the other side of this equation is tips. In American bars, it is pretty much obligatory to dollar-per-drink tip – well it is if you want to keep getting served. In the UK, it is very rare to tip bar staff, but then again, British pubs rarely do table service, and we have to jostle with everyone else at the bar in order to try to attract the attention of the bar tender. I often tip in these circumstances at home, to try to secure good service, but often this doesn’t work as the bar is just too busy and with too many staff working the bar.

 

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