Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Ouray III Experience Tour Part 2, The English Sherpa

Riding into Colorado from Utah with Bob, I reflect on the fact that the motorcycle is one of the best ways to travel. It is warm today, but the freedom of being on a bike is magical as in every direction lies a wonder to behold with no encumbrance of having blocked views from being in a car.

We pull into Ouray earlier then the rest and it takes only a little schmoozing to get the lady at the Rental Agency to give me the key to the condo. Another quick detour to the liquor store and the grocery and we settle in to await the others

The view from the balcony is as spectacular as I remember it to be. The weather is in the eighties and the beer is about 40 degrees cooler then that so I am happy. We discuss doing something productive but Bob and I agree that doing anything of that nature with the others out there riding would threaten the universal balance so we just go into our normal lazy state.

The Whips arrive with Toby and Edd soon enough. For a small monthly fee you can join Whip's Bike of the month club. Whip will send you what motorcycle he is officially tired of riding and a hint to what motorcycle he has just purchased. This is this month's model but we have seat issues. stay tuned!!

Chris Olson beats them as do Twisties and Bullet from Salt Lake. It always feels good when all the birds are in the roost. There is not an easy way to communicate on the road. Some folks put in cell phone connections, but out here there are still very big stretches where you can't talk to each other because there is no service. We have a nice dinner at the Outlaw with much fun to be had. We have a bit of a walk down the hill back to the condo, and the weather is perfect to walk off the Scotch and food eaten. As I settle into bed, I reflect on the fact that I am in a grand place with the friends I love to be with and that the next morning will have us setting off on a grand adventure into the backcountry

Dawn breaks and the view is still as spectacular as the afternoon before

I am not the least bit hungary but the rest of the clan sets off to have a bite to eat. While they do that I decide to see what tourists are in the area and maybe look at the fish in the nearby park.

The flowers are in bloom and catch my eye right away

Even the mundane sort of flowers catch my eye up here.

Ouray and the area was founded on mining and this area still has working gold and silver mines.

I love these old carts

As I keep wandering waiting for the kids to get the jeeps, I come upon a couple of locals sunning themselves. Must be nice to have a life of luxury.

But we have things to see today! I leave the fish and look for my English driver to take me into the bush. As some of you know, Whip made a horrible mistake in reviewing history and gave Killer the nickname Monty(I know how can you give a guy nicknamed Killer another nickname?). Well I figured the best way to handle this as a German, is to just treat him, like my personal valet and hope he doesn't drive us off a cliff recounting his exploits in Tobruk or outside Caen back in 44.

Now I love the Mr. G. He is without the best $3000 4WD (minus the $3000 Transmission) I have ever owned. Growing up, I went on a lot of adventures in troopers but these new jeeps are pretty amazing beasts.

We are in the Red Menace and soon find ourselves in the lead of the column with out any real idea of what lays ahead other then the fact we wish to get to Engineers pass if it is reachable. Monty sets us off and the road is rough.

The road lets up some as we climb but it is not for the feint of heart. Monty does a very adequate job of maneuvering us through the rough spots and I busy myself taking photo's

Chris Olson has the smallest jeep and along with the Whips is our rear guard. Here he is with Whip in the front approaching a rest spot for the column.

The road up is still challenging but not as crazy as the first 2 miles

Monty and Edd surveying our surrondings as we ponder pressing on. Doesn't Monty just look English in that bush hat. And you wonder why the Australians and South Africans hated serving under the British.
\:\) Also please note the mine in the picture

However the scenery just gets better around each bend. This area is just below tree line with some really majestic valleys with run off fed streams. There has to be a lot of wildlife in the area. There are too many folks on this road but we do see a lone doe coming around a corner.

Water is everywhere here and most of it is stunning! As we get further and further up the trail, It is quiet, too quiet....I have the feeling we are.....

...being watched! I spy the varmit up the hill. I am sure he has a cell phone to warn HQ further up the trail. So much for the element of surprise.

The ruins of old claims are everywhere. I wonder if there is any ore in there still? I am sure there are a million stories out there lost in the annals of history about this place.

We climb up out of the tree line and start to see a lot of snow and loose rocks. The trail calls for us to stay alert all the time. Whip calls from back down a ways to say he has a possible issue. It appears that the little jeep has slipped off the road a small ways and needs assistance in getting out. Before we can turn around they are back on the road and we continue to climb even more vigilant of the fact that up here a mistake can have serious consequences.

You can see here the danger as we pass through a tricky spot.

The road below looks like it could be going to the Kyber Pass instead of Ouray

Victory!!!! We make our goal and decide to head down to Silverton instead of heading to Lake City. It is just too far to get there and back in one day, but we all agree it is a great achievement in the annals of Hoondom and we are happy

We stop for lunch at a great spot and take a well deserved break. The ladies are having as much fun as we are

Whip and I agree we have a rough life and need to stop getting so caught up in the hustle and bustle.

We come upon a ghost town on the way down the hill and take some time to explore the hopes and dreams of those no longer with us. I have mixed emotions about ghost towns. They are fun to photograph but they also are often historical markers showing what happens when things go wrong somehow.

We see a chance to have what I call the ultimate "album cover" shot. I would like to think we would be a cross between "The Outlaws and Fleetwood Mac"

The sun is getting lower now and we need to make tracks. I never understand where time goes as we are on the road. It never stands still or shifts speed, but it sure does seem to get by quicker on the road for me.

Water is still there and the falls are wonderful this year

We saddle on into Silverton

I have no idea how they know I am going to be there but there is a band waiting to greet me! Actually they claimed that they do this every year, but I understand that they were trying to put me at ease. We enjoy a lovely dinner in town laughing about the adventures we have had today. It warms me to no end and I make the decision to extend my trip a day to enjoy one more day in the back country. It is too wonderful to miss.

Life sure is good out here

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Ouray III Experience Tour Part I Antelope Canyon

Sometimes when one goes on a journey, we leave with pre conceptions packed right next to our socks. For me I am always pre disposed to believe that places where bus loads of German Tourists go do not need my lense and story out there. This could be attraction arrogance on my part or the fact that I don't enjoy hustling with the guy from DusselDorf to get a picture at the South Rim of the Canyon.

To be fair, I have been trying to convince the Park Service to grant me Tommy Neuman exclusive access day to the Grand Canyon as obviously I can add something to their marketing strategy. I do have hopes that they come through for me someday.

Another touristy think is Antelope Canyon, which is about 5 miles from Page that a lot of Europeans flock to. For most people in Arizona it might as well be in the Gobi Dessert cause they have no clue it is there.

The Navajo's own it and run private tours almost every hour, all year long. To park you have to pay the Navajo government $6.00 All this gets you is a porta pottie and a parking space on a semi dirt lot. Once there, you wander down to a booth pay another very nice Navajo woman $25 dollars to have a guide take you down the sandy wash to the entrance of the slot canyon. It is worth every penny.

Jesus again is not happy that I must go out on the road.

But the GT has new shoes and a top case which I have to ride. 

So just after 5am (the GPS is on Mountain Time) Off I go on a new adventure. 

The ride is great with temperatures sitting around 70 almost all the way up to Flagstaff. Stopping for breakfast with Brian Campbell, a friend from the office who lives in Flafstaff for breakfast makes for a great way to start the trip. We get so wrapped up in the food and conversation I don't turn the camera to take any pictures and just like that I am off again. 

Now I know that some of the local BMW guys are riding up to Utah for a Rally, and sure enough who do I run into at the Cameron Trading post leaving.

Arizona Al and his bike is working!!!

I run into a few more folks inside but nobody is heading up the way I am so I quickly leave and ride the last few miles up to Antelope Canyon listening to the IPOD and just feeling wonderful to be outside instead of in an office.

The GT is running like a champ! What a great way to see things and my gas mileage is just under 50MPG.

Sometimes you have to look past 1st impressions I guess.

The process of loading is interesting to me. Peoples names are called out and then you board a truck. Because I am a single, I manage to get lucky and get to ride up front with the driver. I also think the fact that I have about $2000.00 in cameras, and ride a BMW may mark me as someone who is willing to pay for special access. 

My driver is a character named Bubba who I immediately bond with as we bounce up the road looking for adventure. The first topic he brings up are the two French girls in the truck in front of us. We chat about growing up in Page and the fact that many years ago I was friends with a Navajo Artist from Tuba City. He promises me that he will make sure that I get great shots in the canyon and we hatch a plan to get me away from the folks for a while so that my pictures are free of the Paparazzi tourists. 

My man Bubba tells the folks the rules of going through the Canyon before we are allowed to enter. . Now it is 90 degrees plus out here and the minute you walk into the canyon, it drops to about 68 degrees. It is amazing.

The Photo Paparazzi who I quickly get rid of as Bubba takes me aside. Even when they are around he makes sure I get a few moments of solitude to get shots. He works almost like my assistant setting up shots, tossing sand, making sure that Mr Fuji from Yokahama is out of the frame. He earns a big tip from me and I will not forget his help the next time I head out there.

Below are some pictures for you to look out. I don’t think they need much commentary other to say…WORTHY

The light is getting out of the direct angle needed and I still have 200 miles to ride to get to Torrey before calling it a night so we go outside to wait the return of the trucks. It is hot out here even in the shade. 

Like a mirage, the truck finally shows up and I bid farewell to my buddy and hand him a Jackson for helping me out so much. We agree to meet again somewhere down the road.

Having to ride to Torrey is like riding home. Seeing Killer is great and we are going to watch some Soccer , have a good dinner and my job is to get him out the door in the morning for Ouray. 

Getting up the next morning Bob still has some “things that must be done” before we can leave. That leaves me some time to go see some of the locals.

My Man Fletcher in his full summer coat is happy to see me (well at least the Celery I bring with me).

I dig the new haircut he is sporting

Not a bad trip so far and I know there is great things left to come!!