Sunday

Sport Touring Colorado to Oklahoma via a Tornado.




Our last day on the road left us 897 miles from home. Not usually what you want to hear. We were in Parachute, Colorado, a small town just east of Grand Junction and 224 miles from Denver. At the very least we had about 14 hours of riding in front of us. And a mountain range. Covered in snow. It was 32° in them hills. I layered up.

Not many people understand our style of riding. There are days when I don’t either. Maybe it’s thrill seeking. Maybe it’s like golf. How does one get jacked hitting a small ball all over a big garden into gopher holes? The challenge is internal. If you hit 18 gopher holes, swinging fewer times than anyone else on the planet? You’re good. In our sport, we hit as many miles as possible without killing ourselves or anyone else on the planet. We don’t compromise safety. That’s the challenge. To test our motorcycle, and us as much as possible, just short of bottoming out.

Our endurance riding has become more like running sprints. We stay fit by taking long distance rides in short spurts. Our available riding hours and geographic location play into the equation as well. After 5 years of riding like this, a 900-mile day was like another day at the office. If the road was good. If the weather held out. If the wildlife was busy elsewhere. And if RD didn’t divorce me for breaking the rules. I guess it’s time to confess I gave him the wrong destination address at the beginning of the ride to plug into his GPS. He found out when we ended up at the wrong cousins house. Not the wrong cousin. The wrong house. Rule # 592 – always double check destination street address ESPECIALLY when in the Mojave Desert.

As we left Parachute, the temperature was 42°. We stopped early the night before because RD said the road was squirrelly. Don’t know what that means. I was sure we were in moose or some other big animal country. I could hear water gushing. I was more worried about the semi-trucks cutting us off in the turns.

Hwy 70 to Denver proved to be just as RD said. Now I know that squirrelly means, “not a good one to take in the dark.” However, it was absolutely beautiful by day. Even when we went over a couple of mountain peaks instead of around them. The water I’d heard the day before was gushing by. Whitecaps included. Look great under the morning sun. My camera was getting exercised. But as we got into the higher elevations, my Nikon started getting too cold. The box was colder than the air screaming by at 70 mph. I couldn’t put it in my jacket. I settled for tucking it into my armpit to warm the metal a little.

I had one bad moment in an extremely long tunnel. The thing went on forever. There were signs for miles warning you that you were going into a tunnel. Why? Would you miss it? About half way through it, my imagination and the water seeping in the sidewalls started dancing around in my head, and I panicked. Suddenly, I had this elephant standing on my chest and I felt like the weight of the mountain was on my head. I couldn’t breathe. I must have been making weird noise on the intercom because I heard RD ask, “You OK?”

“No.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Get me out of this.”

“I’m a little busy right now. You come up with an idea, and I’ll give it a try.”

“OK.”

Then I saw sunlight up ahead and it was over. RD stopped at Castle Rock and bought me potato chips and gave me enough time to warm up and indulge in a hot cup of coffee. It’s the little things that are romantic after 26 years of marriage. Those little courtesy gestures that are created after riding through a long dark tunnel that leaks.

By the time we stopped in Pueblo, Colorado for lunch the temp had climbed to the 90’s. We found a little place at our gas stop off Hwy 25 called The Taco Star and indulged. I don’t know if it was from lost calories fighting the cold or just good food, but the tacos were great.

We were making great progress and it continued through the northeast corner of New Mexico even though we ran into herds of small antelope. We even got to see a real live volcano, though not active, called Capitulan. We came into Texas through the panhandle heading south towards Amarillo when the weather started changing.

Cloud cover started increasing. The temp was dropping. Not good when you’ve just come out of the heat. We’ve got enough tornado experience to know that mixing cold fronts and hot fronts make for swirling dervishes. By the time we got close to Amarillo, we could tell the downtown area was getting hit with thunderstorms at the least. RD decided to skirt around the city on Loop 335, which put us on the east side of the city and I40.

Texas belly punched us all the way through with gusting winds. So we weren’t very surprised to see a couple of semi-trucks sitting on their sides as soon as we hit I40. We wondered if a tornado had come through. Later we found out it had. The sky kept us anxious all the way home. Lightening flashed from one end of the horizon to the other. It stayed ahead of us, so we pushed home, passing 3 different wrecks. Our training paid off. We took breaks. We stopped more often to sip water and stretch.

At one of the stops for a wreck, a teenager pulled her car up beside us and rolled down her window. She asked me if I was cold riding in the rain. I almost jumped out of my riding gear and RD nearly dropped the bike. He had a few expletive moments. I giggled. She didn’t realize she had startled us. Maybe she was bored.

We made it home shortly before midnight. I wouldn’t recommend riding in a thunderstorm. Obviously. But I’ve got to tell you; riding behind one was pretty spectacular.

See you on the road,
Donna

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