A Few Random Images of the SMS Open House

On Saturday, November 28, Don, Doris and the rest of the fine folks at Shreveport Motorsports held their yearly Open House. Several members of the Red River BMW Riders showed up to kick tires, tell tales, eat hot dogs and win door prizes. Our thanks to SMS for the good time.

A Cranberry Collision: A Controversial Traffic Circle Gets Eaten

Sometimes Thanksgiving is about more than turkey, dressing and family. Sometimes it's about getting newsy with a cranberry mold. If you've been following Shreveport media of late, you know that the city paid several thousand dollars at the behest of homeowners to put in a traffic circle near an area called Thrill Hill. The plan was that the traffic circle would slow motorists coming over the blind hill, some of whom the local paper reported were going ONE MILE over the speed limit. (The nerve!) The traffic circle did slow motorists down, but did so by causing large-scale vehicular carnage. The first day the traffic circle was installed, there was a wreck. The day the traffic circle was torn down, there was a wreck. Here's to good intentions gone awry and an even better cranberry mold, created by talented bike builder and cranberry traffic circle construction foreman Steve Culp. Though this has nothing whatsoever to do with BMWs or riding, we thought it would make you smile.

Jerry Sagona Heads North to St Louis

The Red River Riders are losing a member to a colder, but what has proven to be a more economically welcoming, clime. Jerry Sagona is moving to St. Louis, Mo., to take a job as the Human Resources Business Partner for ABB Reliability Services. The plant, with about 400 employees, manufactures medium voltage electrical transformers that are sold to power companies, sub-stations and industrial plants.  Jerry will be transitioning over the next few months, so will be in town on-and-off for a while until his house sells. In the meantime, he has already checked out the St. Louis BMW dealership, Gateway, and reports back that membership in their club should be a lot of fun. There will be at least one familiar face in St. Louis. BMW area representative Mark Jamroz is also over the Gateway store so will be able to update Jerry on Shreveport happenings. Though we hate to lose Jerry, we wish him the best on his move and new job!

Travelling Texas In the Fall

(Ed. note - if it's another month, it's another adventure for Red River Riders club member Drew Newcomer. Drew loves to ride and is always looking for places to do so. We all want to be like Drew when we grow up.)

By Drew T. Newcomer
The Motorcycle Sport Touring Association has been meeting in the Texas Hill Country for a fall ride nearly 20 years. The last time I made this event I was riding a Honda (and that has been some time ago!) So, when fellow BMW rider and club member Bob Mizner extended an invitation to enjoy some hospitality and join him for the Hill Country event, I had no good excuse not to go.

Heading out to Bob and his wife Barbara’s place on November 5, I rode I-20 to Texas Highway 14 where I turned north toward Hawkins, Texas. Bob lives just north of Hawkins and I cleaned up the R1150R in his garage and turned in for the night. With Bob in the lead we headed out about 8:00 am on Friday morning. Bob chose a variety of farm roads to wind us southwest where we finally intersected Highway 31. We rode 31 to Corsicana where we grabbed highway 22 west after a good hot cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll. There was not a cloud in the sky as we rode on to Meridian, Texas, on through Cranfills Gap to Hamilton where Bob left 22 to join FM 2005 which took us to Goldthwaite, Texas. In Goldthwaite we jumped on Texas Highway 16 which would take us all the way to our destination of Kerrville and the Y. O. Ranch Resort.

Bob had a treat in store for me when we arrived in Llano. A quick left on Highway 29 and one block lead us to Cooper’s Bar-b-que where large pits were manned by several chefs cooking everything from chicken to sausage to rib eyes to tenderloin. Now, Bob neglected to tell me that it is very easy to overeat when at Cooper’s. I selected some sausage, some tenderloin, and some pork ribs. Boy was I surprised when my bill totaled in the neighborhood of $21.00! The meat seemed to have enlarged from the time I picked it on the grill till the time I sat down at the table to chow down. Good thing Bob was willing to help me with this feast. Although we didn’t arrive till 2:00 pm, Cooper’s was still plenty busy and after talking to a few locals, I discovered that Cooper’s is famous in these parts and people drive long distances to sample the great fare they offer.

On very full stomachs we finished the last hour of the ride from Llano to Kerrville. We arrived at the Y. O. and checked in after “blue sky only” ride of 380 miles. Many riders had already arrived and it was nice to visit with folks that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Many attendees went out to eat Friday night, but I pleasantly declined as I was still stuffed to the gills with bar-b-que! Needless to say, I slept very well that night.  Saturday morning arrived with a brilliant sun and many riders headed to Destination Cycle, a local dealer in Kerrville.

Coffee, doughnuts, and breakfast tacos were in store for those that stopped by. After a light breakfast, I left the group behind and headed down Texas 173 to Bandera. I was greeted by some fog which was thick enough to cause me to slow down in spots. This being the first weekend of the local deer season was another reason to be especially vigilant. Bandera, known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, has grown exponentially from the first time I came here years ago. I headed west from Bandera on FM 470 to Tarpley and on to Utopia where I headed north for a few miles on FM 187 to Vanderpool. One of the most popular roads in Texas for motorcycles is FM 337 between Vanderpool and Leakey. I rode it west, liked it so much that I turned around and headed back east. I even had my photo made by a local entrepreneur who takes photos, posts them on the internet, and lets you select and purchase them if you like (yea, I bought a couple !!) After arriving in Vanderpool for the second time I turned north for a final time on 187.

There is a small, but very interesting motorcycle museum on 187 just a few miles north of Vanderpool. This was another place I had not visited in a number of years so I stopped and looked at the fifty or so motorcycles and had a burger as my breakfast was now gone.  Interestingly enough, 187 is where I had my deer encounters. I had a couple run across the road in front of me, but they were far enough ahead of me that there was no cause for alarm – deer are rampant in this part of the world and I have come closer to a few than I would like at all times of the year.

187 took me to Texas 39 where I turned east to Hunt, Ingram, and finally back to Kerrville. The weather was ideal and it would be difficult to imagine a better venue. I will not let so much time pass before I get back to the Hill Country at this time of the year.

Motorcyle Sales Blow In 3rd Quarter

If you watch TV, listen to the radio, talk to friends, glance at billboards, read magazines, newspapers, flyers, tea leaves or chicken bones you know that we in the big ol' US of A are mired in an economic slump the likes of which haven't been seen since the last big economic slump and won't be seen again until the next big economic slump. Jeepers.

What it really means is the mediagenic prophets of doom have managed to so scare people that even if their retirement/homes/jobs are safe they are too terrified to buy something as nonessential to their continued existence on earth as a motorcycle. So, gentle readers, that giant sucking sound you heard was the manufacturers' third quarter and year-to-date earnings.

Let's start with our friends, the Bavarians.  From January until September of this year, BMW Motorrad's 500cc plus segment fell by 31.5% over the previous year. European and U.S. numbers paint a dismal tale. In Europe, the Spanish market tanked the worst (off by 58.3%) with the UK the least (-8.9%). The home of BMW, Germany, was off 15.5%. The U.S. market decline was a killer, off a whopping 43% year-to-date.

As would be expected when facing less demand for product, motorcycle production at the plant in Berlin has been reduced selectively by about 22%. BMW's woes are not their burden alone, they are industry-wide.

In Japan, damage wreaked by a Godzilla-type movie monster might be preferred to skittish buyers. (At least monster damage might be covered by insurance.) Since January of 2009, Japanese manufacturers have produced 67.2% fewer over 250cc bikes for markets worldwide.  U.S. sales of the over-250cc Japanese bikes are off by 79.8%. Yes, you read that correctly, down nearly 80%.

The pain is deep and universal. The following is the manufacturer, the units produced so far this year and the percentage of the previous year. In other words, Honda's 10,364 bikes manufactured in 2009 is only 48% of what they produced last year.

Honda 10,364 48.0%
Suzuki 8,932 36.0%
Yamaha 10,281 55.7%
Kawasaki 8,727 75.3%

Kawasaki is strongest on number of motorcycles produced, but understand that these are the numbers of bikes BUILT, not the number of bikes SOLD.
These numbers courtesy of http://www.webbikeworld.com/

Meanwhile, Harley Davidson reports a Q3 loss of about 22%, which was about 8% BETTER than its Q2 numbers. Harley-Davidson Financial Services took a HUGE hit, which helped send net income tumbling by 84% in the third quarter.
Polaris says Victory cycles are off by 56% in Q3 and 53% year-to-date.  Indian Motorcycles, which post sales figures to an Etch-A-Sketch,  are offering to pay your first SIX payments if you will just take one of their motobeasts off the dealer floor.
With dismal sales and dealers dying to make deals, now is the time to buy, buy, buy.

Buell Goes Bye, Bye

Manufacturers are having to divest of those products not pulling their weight and to that end, Harley Davidson has dumped Buell. The Wisconsin motorcycle company was founded by ex-Harley Davidson engineer Erik Buell, but with H-D suffereing crushing net income losses YTD in 2009, Buell had to go.

Harley Davidson says the Buell factory will close down on December 18, but that they will continue to provide extra parts for the foreseeable future and will continue to honor all guarantees. H-D is also actively searching for a buyer for MV Augusta, the boutique Italian line they purchased just 18 months ago.

The good news for Buell afficianados is that the line won't go away entirely...word is that it will continue as Buell Racing. Teams will use the 1125R and will be supported by Harley-Davidson.

Indian Goes To the Dark Side

Since sliding back into regular production, Indian motorcycles has amassed a whopping 15 dealers nationwide. Though you may have to travel to find them, Indian is giving potential customers more to look at in 2010.

The first is called the Chief Dark Horse and is available in matte Thunder Black, Indian Red and Deep Water Blue. The dark components on the bike including the blacked out headlight, tappet blocks, suspension, engine components, exhaust system, and hand controls make the remaining chrome components stand out. MSRP is $27,999.

The second newbie is the Chief Bomber, a one-year-limited edition model inspired by the aircraft of WWII. The Bomber is available in Military Green and Silver Smoke finishes and sports pin-up girl tank artwork. The leather used on the seat and saddlebags are reminiscent of the feel and color of an old bomber jacket. MSRP is $30,999.

North American BMW Riders Set World Record

On Saturday, September 26, BMW riders from 17 states and Canada showed up in Missouri to smash a European-held motorcycle record. In 2004, BMW riders in Switzerland assembled 128 strong to win the bragging right as holder of the Guinness World Book record for longest BMW parade. The folks at Grass Roots BMW in Cape Girardeau knew that 128 was child's play...a mere attempt at a serious German invasion. They determined to show our Swiss friends that EVERYTHING is bigger in the U.S. of A. and they succeeded.

Despite threatening skies the day of the attempt, 241 riders took their positions in line and traveled the 4.2 mile parade route mostly uneventfully. Afterwards, they went back to the dealership where they enjoyed some good grub and had the chance to hang out with BMW racer Nate Kern and ogle the new BMW S1000RR Good-Gosh-Almighty-It's-Fast sport bike. Participants and event planners report that all in all, it was not only a history-making day but a fun one as well. Will a rematch be in the offing? Will the Swiss' neutrality hold? Will a counter attempt be made? Did the Swiss make everyone wipe off their tires before entering the country? So many questions, so few answers.

For more on the event including lots of great pictures and a video, go to:

Drew Goes Twistin' Through the Ozarks

By Drew T. Newcomer

I had not ridden in southern Missouri in quite sometime so when the opportunity arose to attend the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s Bull Shoals Rally, I knew I wanted to attend. On a clear Friday morning I was headed up LA 15 to Farmerville and eventually to El Dorado, AR before the sun came up.

The road to Arkansas is pretty uneventful and is one I have traveled a number of times. Heading up 167 into Sheridan, I turned northwest on AR 35 heading toward Benton. I like this road that eventually takes me to AR 9 while circumventing Little Rock. I had a milestone on this trip as this was the first time I successfully found AR 5 in Benton without getting all turned around and having to backtrack to find where I was supposed to be. I headed west on AR 5 (though the signs will tell you that you are heading south to Hot Springs) until I intersected AR 9 where I turned north. 9 is a pretty ride through some rolling hills and it is a road I have enjoyed several times before. 9 intersects US 65 at Choctaw and I turned north on this major thoroughfare to Marshall where a very motorcycle highway 27 takes one to Harriet, AR where an even more motorcycle highway 14 awaits. I headed up 14 to Yellville, and continued north until I turned toward Missouri and Bull Shoals Reservoir on US 125. While this may not have been the shortest route to my final destination of Isabella, MO it was the route where one crosses the reservoir via a free ferry. I was the only passenger going north but there were several cars and a couple of motorcycles waiting to come south as the ferry approached the northern landing.

The rolling hills of the Ozarks do not stop as you cross into Missouri. 125 continues north but on this day I turned east on US 160 to find the rally site at the Theodosia Marina Resort and my cabin which was a mile further down the road.

Bull Shoals Reservoir was completed in 1952, the same year as the cabin I stayed in and I think the mattress in my cabin was the original as well. While not the fanciest of accommodations it certainly wasn’t the worst I had ever stayed in and after Friday night’s weenie roast, sleep was not a long time coming after a very enjoyable 400 mile trip.

The Bull Shoals Rally organizers, Ed and Linda Young of the MSTA provided very nice packets to the 100 attendees. Routes were highlighted with suggestions for various rides. Not wanting to spend the entire Saturday in the saddle (I figured I was due a nap at some point!) I chose a route that would provide me with about 200 miles worth of Missouri countryside. I started west on 160 until I met MO 76 at Kissee Mills. I turned north to Ava, MO where I turned west on MO 14 to Sparta. At Sparta, I turned south on 125 (yes, the same 125 that I crossed the ferry on) and let me tell you this is a ride any motorcyclist would enjoy. It has plenty of ups and downs lefts and rights and very little traffic. There are no problems with road conditions except where some new asphalting is being done. 125 crosses 76 on the way back to 160 where I turned east heading back to my home base of Isabella.

On Sunday morning, there were still plenty of good roads to be ridden, so I headed east on 160 until I turned south on US 5 heading toward Mountain Home. In Mountain Home, I had a very enjoyable large breakfast (this would benefit me later) then headed south out of town on 201 to AR 341 – known to many local riders as the “Arkansas Gap.” 341 is 25 miles of twisties and many motorcyclists have been bitten here by either the road (on the day before a rider was air lifted out via helicopter) or the local authorities that lay in wait for unsuspecting sport bike fanatics. I didn’t have to worry about either. Two miles into 341 I had to stop and put the rain gear on. As I headed south I dealt with the curves and the rain but couldn’t complain. I had the road to myself at 7:30 on Sunday morning. 341 comes to an end intersecting our old friend 14 where I turned west until intersecting AR 263 near Big Flat. Now, as soon as you turn on 263 you are met by a “Steep and Dangerous Curves” sign. I had never been on 263 before and road the 30 or so miles in the rain until I turned south on 9 which took me to highway 16 at Shirley, AR. From Shirley to Clinton was nine miles where I hooked back up with US 65 on into Conway and eventually I-40 and Little Rock.

I had originally planned to ride a different route home but because of the weather I thought it best to ride the route I was most familiar with. I eventually pulled into my drive about 2:15 that afternoon after riding in rain for all but about 45 miles of the 390 mile ride. Still, there were no complaints about the trip (well, maybe – I seem to have some flea bites on my ankles that I can’t help but wonder if I picked up in my 57 year old cabin!) I rode some roads I had been on before and some that were new, and all that I hope I will ride again in the not-too-distant future. Arkansas/Missouri are not that far away and lend themselves easily to a great three-day weekend trip.

David & Jean Explore Torrey, Utah--- Dirt and All!

By Jean and David Hanson

The story really starts about 2 weeks before the trip. Friends we have met over the last 3 years over the internet and have ridden with to unrallies and Bib (g) Bend events keep impressing upon us to come to Torrey, Utah.  A group of friends gather together twice a year in Torrey to ride the streets and the dirt and to just fellowship. We had decided that it was too far and we just didn’t have enough time and David had just gotten a new Yamaha WR250R that he wanted to spend some time on, so we pushed the trip off until next year.

On September 18th our friends from San Antonio called and asked what it would take to get us to Torrey?For every reason we had not to go they had a better one convincing us to come.  On September 19th we started a search for a trailer of our own knowing full well this may not be our only trip to Torrey, we found a good deal on an enclosed trailer and Saturday was spent rigging it  for the upcoming trip. On September 22nd, we, our bikes and our trailer headed off to Gallup, New Mexico, finally arriving at about 10 p.m. Before we shut it down for the night I made note of what the GPS was doing. This is important for the next morning departure.

September 23rd started the morning at a decent hour, don’t have much further to go to get to Torrey. Hop in the truck after a continental breakfast and head out. GPS is angry we didn’t start out the way she wanted. I mentioned to David that we actually went past our turn to get to the reasonable priced motel. But going back to the east was out of the question so David and Mrs GPS person finally came to an agreement. Got to see part of Arizona yippee!! Made it to Torrey about 2:00 in the afternoon. Our friends from San Antonio had been running up and down watching for us because apparently the dirt riding had already started. One of the board members at www.bmwsporttouring.com lives in Torrey with a nice sized garage. A lot of the regulars to this Torrey event leave their dirt bikes in his garage for this occasion. So our San Antonio friend Larry rides up to the truck as we pull in and says can you get that bike out of the back of the truck pretty quick so we can go ride. David says well there is that Trailer back there I really need to unhook first. So within I would say 10 minutes tops the trailer is unhooked and the bike was off the truck and all I saw was dust in the wind.

David Interjects:
I had been driving since 6am and got on the dirt bike around 3pm for nearly 2 hours of hard but FUN riding. Just getting to know the WR, I was very conservative at first but soon warmed up to it and we bonded. I could squeeze the sweat out of my helmet every time we stopped for a breather and lookout from the edge of a cliff! Suspension and power was perfect for me, and I quickly found that standing with bent knees let the bike work as intended.

Back to Jean:
September 24th woke up to cold and windy, but just gorgeous weather. By 9:00 the wind had died down and the group was gathering for sweeper madness. David and I had geared up got the GS and Tiger ready. The roads are very well kept and with the low population not very many other vehicles on the road. The ride was just excellent saw lots of red rock and mountains and then the Aspens started and they were just changing colors, that was a beautiful sight words can not describe it! Elk and mule deer hunters were camped all over the mountain, but the roads were us alone, and a few cows!

September 25th was also cold, windy and beautiful. By 9:00 the wind had died down and the group is gathering again. Today we do scenic hwy 12 and down to Burr Trail and then over Devil’s backbone. Burr Trail is what I would describe as a mountain with a road hanging off the side for those adventurous souls who are just too lazy to hike! It used to be a dirt road that they paved to try to attract more vacationers.

When you go at a decent pace on it then it is kind of serene and majestic. But since it was technical and we had another 28 miles to go in the opposite direction of the hotel I chose to park my bike and double up with David. I found during that last 28 miles that I really like riding my own bike. Anyway, on to Devil’s Backbone, not sure I can describe this. Let's see, picture being on top of the Empire State Building for about 1 mile with only a path big enough for 2 people to pass with no guardrails and a really treacherous rocky drop off. No sides to the path just the path and drop off. You bobble, you die.

David here, I will inject that this ride was, shall we say spirited with me trying to keep my friend Whip in sight on the front, he was riding a R1150GS with tourance tires, very quick rider to say the least!

September 26th woke up to cold and windy, etc etc. Today is the dirt bike and jeep ride day. Started out really well, got to visit and meet some of the crew I had not met before. Very nice group! I am in one of the support vehicles David is on his new to him Yamaha bike, which kicked butt that day! We headed up hwy 24 and into Capital Reef National Park. About 7 miles into the trip one of the group fell and broke his leg. We had a combat nurse and fireman handy to prep the leg and then the fun began looking for a hospital. He wound up in Provo, Utah, he had a plate and pins installed and will be selling a bike (DRZ400). He is okay and will be back up and going soon. Since I was in a support vehicle I didn’t get the whole tour of Capital Reef National Park. Guess we will have to go back. Oh well, that will be another ride report someday I’m sure!

David here, I really enjoyed the DS ride, total of 135 miles, of which about 65 on dirt. Lots of technical stuff, dry wash talcum powder deep, rock exposed drains every ¼ mile or so, hilly parts had lots of rock to miss. I ran all day right behind the tour guide which was on a XR650 honda I believe. My quads were quite sore the next day from all the standing and horseing the bike, MUCH FUN! I carried extra water in my dirt bagz panniers, 3 others had bladders and back packs. Whip’s WR450F ran out of gas despite having a safari tank. I pulled out my 1 qt MSR bottle and got him to the next station about 10 miles. TORREY lived up to the hype, we will be back. Oh, on pull home, I vowed to find another way than 69, 380, 287 (TOO much traffic). I took 82 off 287, came in from Vivian, no interstate till 220 loop, yeehaaa!

David and Jean:
Great place to visit!

BMW Offers Halloween Treats

If you've been thinking of purchasing a new Beemer for your Halloween treat to yourself, BMW might be willing to sweeten the deal. In October, BMW is offering $2,000 discounts on the 2009 R1200GS, the
R1200GS Adventure, the  K1300GT and K1300S. Check out the 0.9% to 4.9% financing or free accessories/apparel on the G450X ,  G650Xcountry, G650 GS, F800ST, R1200GS, R1200GS Adventure, K1300S, and K1300GT. Truly, something for everyone.

To get more details on the goodies being used to entice buyers to make the move, go to: http://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/us/en/index.html

Rocky Mountain High: Steve & Liz Climb For Clouds

I knew the fix was in as soon as Steve learned about the legendary "Alpine Loop" from friend and fellow Red River Riders Club member Leroy Nuckolls. It was the day back in the late winter when I walked into the hangar at the Downtown Airport and the two had their heads together, whispering. "Dirt bikes..mumble...great trails...mumblemumble...old miner's roadsmumble...somethingsomethingColorado." I did not ask because I honestly did not want to know. I was certain it would come up again even if I remained silent and it did, oh yes, it did. It wasn't until plans were made and deposits paid that I begin to hear other parts of the conversation..."so scared I wouldn't ride the bike." "Somethingsomethingsheer dropoff...mumblemumble...I was hugging the wall." Greatmumblemumble.

The San Juan Mountains from Engineer Pass

For those of you as ignorant of the Alpine Loop as I was at this point, let me take a moment to enlighten. It is officially 65-miles of old miner's trails that wind through the San Juan mountains in southcentral Colorado. During the 1800 and 1900s, the region was awash with gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead mines. During the 1800s, industrious miners carved out a series of trails connecting the mines with towns for their donkey-drawn transportation.

The trails take you through carnivorous areas with picturesque names: Engineer Pass, Cinnamon Pass, Poughkeepsie Gulch, Animas Forks and Capitol City. It was somewhere in these mountains that Alferd Packer, a prospector and guide, decided that the five men traveling with him in the winter of 1874 would taste mighty good in a stew. Though "emergency cannibalism" was all the rage in the West at the time, Packer was eventually arrested and convicted. The sentencing judge allegedly pronounced Packer a "voracious, man-eating sonafabitch" that he would "sentence to hell" if the law allowed it. As it was, Packer served only 18 years for his crimes.

Alferd Packer, who bears a striking resemblance to Charles Manson

The story of Alferd Packer seems incongruous in such an area of beauty. The mountains are filled with creeks, waterfalls, ghost towns and long, sweeping vistas. But it is an appropriate reminder that the mountains...or your prospector guide...may kill you.

Though the 'official' Alpine Loop is 65 miles long, hundreds of miles of forest roads, jeep and 4x4 trails intersect and are poorly marked, taking you down deadends to places difficult to depart. Steve and I decided to join the Loop in Lake City, Colo., a town of 325 souls just north of the frighteningly steep Slumgullion Pass. Lake City has a long history but it seems to exist now to service the many intent on an Alpine Loop excursion. On a summer weekend (the Alpine Loop season is short, sometimes just over two months), parts of the Loop start to look like Main Street, with people lined up single-file in jeeps, ATVs and 4-wheel drive trucks. Because vehicles with 4-wheels can cruise at 1-mph over craggy, boulder-strewn patches, it is best for bikers not to be behind them. However, getting around an obstacle on a 7-foot-wide trail where one side is a rock face and the other is a 1,000 foot plunge to the mountainside below can be entertaining, in a bad sort of way.

Different curves on Engineer Pass

Like many life adventures, the Alpine Loop starts out deceptively easy. The first nine miles out of Lake City is on County Road 20, a beautiful dirt road with easy grades, no rocks and plentiful public bathrooms.

At the remnants of the old mining town called Capitol City is the directional sign that sealed our fate for the day.

From this point on, the lovely County Road 20 begins a rather rapid deterioration to areas of both small and large loose rock along narrow trails and switchbacks, some with intimidating dropoffs. I was very happy at this point to be on a 300-lb BMW G450X instead of the much heavier R1200GS. Though the GS could have easily handled these trails, the extra weight would have been extremely challenging and I cringe to think about righting the bike if I went down. After getting an obligatory picture at the Engineer Pass crossing and watching Steve's bike BLOW OVER because of 50-mph winds (the jeepster boys just stood and watched while Steve struggled to right his bike. I guess they didn't want to interrupt his "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Cursing.")

From there we took random trails to Animas Forks, a fabulous century-old mining ghost town. I don't know how we ended up there as I COULD NOT TEAR MY EYES OFF THE TRAIL and had long stopped looking at maps for fear of plunging off the mountain and dying. The GPS Steve had borrowed kept showing him where we were which didn't matter in the least because we just needed to know where we were going.

Animas Forks is a particularly impressive place. Because of the low humidity and lack of rot, all the old wooden structures still stand, including a 3-story Victorian home with a large bay window built in 1875 by Tom Walsh, then-owner of the Hope Diamond and founder of the local Camp Bird mine. At Animas Forks, we got our bearings and finished our days' trailriding adventure in Silverton, Colo., home of the famous Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. If you ever have the chance, take the train. It will allow you to sit back and enjoy the scenery instead of constantly worrying about faceplanting into it. It was in Silverton we met the three 30-ish dirt bike guys who told us about their friend careening off the side of the mountain and having to scramble for dear life earlier that morning. Nothing like a side order of cold reality with your burger.

The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge. Great fun and no falling.

After our late lunch in Silverton, we decided to take pavement back to Lake City, yet ANOTHER mistake. Argh. Is it possible that the highways that run through Ouray (aka: "Little Switzerland of Colorado") and Gunnison could be even scarier that the trails? Yes, it is, people, yes it is.


Several hours later, we were back in Lake City, determined to search for trails that would offer the beauty and the fun without so much physical danger. It was the decision that would lead us to Creede, our next mistake.

Creede is a gritty, working-class sort of a town, all snugged up in some big craggy rocks. It sits at 8852 feet and has been called the 'silver mining town that would not die.' In fact, there's still a lot of silver in them thar hills, but the price is too low to make extracting it worthwhile. The last mine shut in 1985 leaving the area to eke out a living on government jobs and tourism. Creede is one of those towns where people go to dance to their own drummer or to flat be left alone.

One of the locals, fired up about somethin'

I figured the folks at the local ranger station would surely be able to fill us in on easier local trails and they were quite informative. Their information was WRONG, but they gave quite a lot of it, cheerfully. After purchasing close to $50 worth of maps, the nice retired couple at the desk proceeded to draw highlights all over the map showing the lovely scenic local trails.

It was not until the trip home I saw what they had actually drawn, and then it all made sense.

They told us to take Bachelor Loop, a truly enjoyable forest service road to the trailhead for Rat Creek and from there, they sketched out a series of 'we did them in a jeep last week' roads they promised would be JUST FINE on a motorcycle. These people had quite obviously never been on a bike of any kind. I tend to believe they had never been on these trails, either. There are worse things I could say about them but I already have. Repeatedly.

There are two types of rock you encounter in this part of Colorado, scree and talus. Though the words are used interchangeably, scree is usually the loose rock and gravel smaller than the size of your fist. Talus is usually the larger loose stuff. Boulders are still boulders and all was mixed in with ruts, ravines, pitch, slope and rapidly narrowing options.

The easy section of the trail.

The first part of the trail was rocky single-track that was actually quite fun. I tumbled once while trying to negotiate a creek, boulders and switchback thrown into one 10-foot area, but occasional dirtbike plants are to be expected. It was just past here that we encountered our first "Are you KIDDING?!" moment. It was a narrow path up a steep, long grade covered with boulders and fist-and-larger-sized scree. We considered getting up this patch intact an accomplishment, and assumed this must be the worst of the trail. We proceeded upward, past the tree line and toward the clouds. The only problem with going up is coming down again, which we would soon experience first hand.

Liz, before the serious falling started.

Gravity is your friend going up a mountain. If you fall, the bike generally stops. Coming down, you tumble...and when you find large ruts, boulders, scree and no way out, you tend to tumble worse. I tumbled twice. Then I did the prudent thing and asked Steve to ride my bike down the steep decline and he tumbled. I felt embarrassed about falling, but Steve was philosophical. "I've ridden dirtbikes for 40 years," he told me, "and these were some of the most difficult trails I've ever seen. Who told you these were easy?" In some after-the-fact Internet research, I found these trails were actually rated "expert," not "easy." Maybe the two words starting with "e" confused that nice couple at the ranger station.

Steve, walking UP the mountain to retrieve his bike after riding mine down.

It was here I made several discoveries that will serve me well. Never depend on non-riders to know what is and isn't difficult on a motorcycle. Never assume the trails will be so easy you won't need armor and leave it at the hotel where it will do you no good. Never assume trails will be marked correctly or at all, for that matter. Never assume your GPS has any more idea of where you are than you do. (We did a lot of looking at the sun. That never lies.) Never turn down a second scoop of ice cream at Freemon's General Store outside Creede, because if you take the advice of the couple at the local ranger station, that scoop could be your last. Savor it.

Dessert first, please.

More Interesting Colorado Scenery

This is a section of a trail on the Loop called "Poughkeepsie Gulch." Poughkeepsie is mean, as is a trail called Black Bear, where the switchbacks are so tight, tires dangle over thin air and jeeps have to back up to get around them.

Colorado is an open range state, which means in many places, livestock has no fencing. We ran into a cattle drive on one of our trails. The cattle won.

The Creede Volunteer Fire Department is built into the side of the mountain right outside downtown. Believe it or not!


For more on the region and its history, go to: