I’ll admit it. I am a sea-level flatlander. I live in a single-story house. No stairs. No hills in Jacksonville other than the bridges over the St. Johns River. I had just completed 1800 miles of riding across the flattest part of our nation. And this morning I headed to the top of Pikes Peak. “Make sure you drink a lot of water” I was advised, “it’ll help prevent headaches caused by the altitude”. The first half of the road to the top is not challenging, but the switchbacks and sheer drop-offs further up require concentration. And the bike just felt odd. I realized that I was experiencing the famous Goldwing wobble. I hadn’t noticed it with the original Bridgestone tires, but the new Avons seemed to accentuate it. It was unnerving. For me, the ride up was worse than the ride down. Heading up, you only see the curve in the road and sky. Heading down, you can see the vista.
Around the 11,000 foot point, I became lightheaded. Of course – the altitude! I made it to the top, parked, and got out my camera for some photos. Geez, I was out of breath. Walking to the restaurant and gift shop left me panting like I just came in from a run! I spoke with a young park ranger who was working there for the summer. He told me how he walks slowly, and has learned to modulate his speech so that he gets out half a sentence, takes a breath and finishes his sentence.
I had one of the famous Pikes Peak donuts. The story is that the recipe is special because of the thin atmosphere. Delicious. But I think that most every freshly-fried donut is delicious. Get ’em early before they sell out. It was 55° at the top with plenty of unmelted snow. I was told that it was closed a few weeks earlier. It’s actually open year round, assuming that the weather is okay and they can clear the snow. But the storms can move in quickly, so it’s best to head up early in the morning. On the way down, cars have to stop and have their brakes checked. A park ranger takes the temperature of the brakes using an infrared thermometer. The cars in front of me were told to pull over to the side for 10-15 minutes. No need for motorcycles to stop – the brakes are out in the open and effectively air cooled.
The rest of the day was spent on CO 25 to 50 to 550. My stopping point was in Ouray, the Switzerland of America. Colorado is beautiful. Snow capped mountains at every turn. I got to my hotel as the sun was setting behind the mountains. I asked the proprietor where was the best restaurant in town to get a steak. He told me that there was really only one place, the Outlaw restaurant on the main street through town. I grabbed my camera and headed out, taking a few pictures of the town before sitting down to eat. Beer was good, salad was good, bread was good. But the steak was the TOUGHEST piece of shoe leather you can imagine. I ate around the edges and could not eat any more of it. I called the manager over and she apologized and offered me something else. But by that time I was full from the beer and salad and bread and steak and tired and ready for sleep. Instead she comp’d me half the price of the steak and we called it even. Best steak in town? Hmmmm….