Day 5. After accomplishing my goal of surviving/visiting the Rockies, we pushed on towards the plains. Nebraska wasn't originally in the plans but we decided we could add another state to our list and another geocach for Vern. Our ride would run around ~320 miles and end in Oakley, KS. Don't ask me why Oakley was our destination. The original travel plans had been made months ago by people who were no longer on the ride. Vern and I just had our hotel reservations there, and by gosh, we were going to see what the town had to offer.
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Morning in Estes Park. It was gorgeous. Sun was out, the temperature was plasent and I sipped coffee as I strapped my bags to the bike. Vern ended up staying in the rooms across the way. Apparently they weren't as nice as the rooms on my side of the lodge. When asked, the lodge manager said it was just luck of the draw on which rooms you ended up in depending on when you booked the room. Vern wasn't happy with that answer. I'm sure TripAdvisor has been duly updated:)
If you expand the photo you can see a guy next to the picnic table. He and his wife were laying out what appeared to be rock climbing gear. If I was more the social butterfly I would have wandered over and asked where they were headed. The chicken in me kept packing my bags and sipping my coffee. But I'm sure they were headed somewhere cool:)
I like this photo as it shows the mountains we drove out of last night. You'll also notice the sign on the left that states "Lake Estes Golf Club". That leads into my next photo.
As I was packing Vern mentioned there had been Elk on the golf course earlier in the morning. Vern's an early riser. So I grabbed my camera and crossed two fairways to snap some photos. Pardon me sir, you really want to use a pitching wedge here instead of a nine iron..oh and don't mind the electronic shutter noises coming from my camera. Did you just hear someone yell "Fore"? (Just kidding, he was taking a practice swing. I wouldn't snap photos during someone's real swing.)
You do _not_ want to meet up with some of these guys while riding down a road on your motorcycle.
I must say, the lady in the black dress really knows how to look good on a nature trail!
The road heading out of Estes Park was spectacular on a bike. Plenty of curves and scenery.
I have no idea what the name of this river was. But it seemed to be flowing pretty good.
Please avoid picking up hitchhikers that look like this. The neon yellow is a definite clue to mental instability.
Someone's been practicing with Photoshop. And Vern doubted my skills when I was taking 15 pictures at the curve!
We made a quick stop in Loveland to fix a busted bolt in one of Vern's foot pegs. I can't comment on the rumor that he may have dropped the bike trying to back out of the parking spot this morning. As we continued to the east we had a single rain cloud sitting right above the road we were on. It's pretty frustrating when all around you is clear sky and the direction you want to go is covered by rain.
We tried to press on but we continued to hit heavy down pours. So we pulled off the road in Fort Morgan. Vern suggest that we just grab lunch and wait it out. I couldn't agree more. We ended up at Mexican restaurant called Santiago's. Pretty good food. I had fajitas. That's an inside joke for people who know me:)
After lunch we were storm free to Nebraska. Yes, those are bullet holes in the sign. Either Nebraskan's like their target practice or Colorado folks like to chase Nebraskan's back to their side of the boarder.
Vern broke out his GPS in Haigler, NE. The geocach was nearby.
A few miles out of town was a historical monument. Vern's research had told him a geocach was located in the vicinity.
This was actually a really neat stop. No one around for miles. Green plains rolling out to the horizon. It was a big difference from the dry heat and desert of home.
After a few minutes of walking around Vern's GPS locked onto the proper coordinates and he located his Nebraska geocach.
I'll let you peek into this one. You'll have to locate your own on the next one.
I thought this was a cool picture.
Ok, so one more picture at this stop to explain what happened next. I took this one from my phone but It really shows off that dark storm cloud on the horizon.
That cloud was to our south, and we headed straight for it after crossing over into Kansas. The storm seemed to stretch on for miles off to our right. It was pitch black and lightning would crackle all across the front of it as we rode by. For forty miles we skirted the storm that hovered off to our right. No rain, just the constant threat that something was going to hit soon. The fact that we weren't hitting anything lulled us into a false since of security. In the town of Colby we were about eight miles from Oakley. I suggested to Vern that we pull off and wait it out, but we were about to get on a freeway that would lead us away from the storm and Vern thought we could make it. So we pressed on. This was a bad decision. As soon as we got on the freeway the storm opened up with everything it had. Rain and hail was coming in sideways. I only had my rain jacket on and the water was already soaking my jeans. My tinted faceshield started to fog up and I had to open it a crack just to see in front of me. Rain poured into my helmet. Vern's windshield made it impossible to see in front of him, so he slowed down to a crawl. I jumped in front him hoping my tail lights would lead the way, but after awhile he dropped back to the point I couldn't even see his headlights. I desperately wanted to tear ahead and make Oakley but I kept thinking Vern may lose control and I would have left him out there on the freeway, so I came to a stop under a overpass. Vern pulled up after a few minutes later and said we were only two exits out..we should just go for it. So we pressed on. It was pitch black and I could hardly see. At each overpass there were cars and semi-trucks parked on the side of the road. I kept thinking that these people must have thought we were nuts, two motorcyclists cruising down the freeway like nothing was wrong. It was amazing that a tornado didn't roll through and carry us off into OZ. FINALLY after the longest 8 miles of my life I caught the exit ramp to Oakley, and almost started crying when I saw the sign that said Oakley was still 5 miles out. Luckily there was a convenient store at this exit and Vern and I parked the bikes and ran inside. There were about 20 people in there waiting the storm out and Vern and I looked like drowned rats. I just stood by the door and dripped water. Vern bought me some coffee and I was able to warm up a little. After 30 minutes the worst of the storm had passed by. Vern was eager to make the hotel so we got back on the bikes in a drizzle and headed for the hotel.
Let me tell you the hotel ended up being the equivalent to the Bates motel. I'm pretty sure Alfred Hitchcock filmed here for the making of Psycho. The highlight was when we found out they didn't have any heat. Only AC. It was the low point of the trip. After a hot shower we discovered the only open restaurant was a Pizza Hut 10 blocks away and they didn't deliver. We were so hungry we ended up walking the 10 blocks in the rain. Not really the brightest bulbs in the bulb box.
Tomorrow, the blast furnace that is Texas.