Friday, June 17, 2011

Scenic? Seen It

Denver, CO

If you ask Google Maps how long it takes to get from Casper, WY to Denver, CO, it will give you a time somewhere around four and a half hours.  I'm currently sitting in Denver - 9 hours after I left the coffeeshop in Casper this morning.  So why did it take me twice as long?

Well, the first thing is that any trip takes me longer on the motorcycle.  I stop more often, primarily out of necessity - my gas tank has 2.7 gallons before I flip to the reserve, which is an extra gallon.  The reserve is essentially my gas light, because there's no fuel gauge or light.  When the bike starts sputtering and dying, I flip to reserve, and I know I've got at best 50 miles before it dies for good.  So at 50 mpg, that means I get about 135 miles before I flip to reserve, and the absolute farthest I can go between fillups is somewhere around 185 miles.  So I usually stop about every 100 miles, as opposed to every 250 miles or so when I'm driving.

I usually stop for longer on the bike too.  When I do roadtrips in the car, I try to keep non-meal stops to under 10 minutes, and meal stops to under 20, to keep things moving.  On the bike though, I stop for as long as I need to in order to recover.  Sitting on the bike gets tiring; my butt gets sore, sometimes my back gets sore, and my wrists get sore, especially the right one which has to stay on the throttle 99% of the time I'm on the bike.  So I take some time to walk around, stretch out my legs and back, move my wrists around, drink some water and maybe snack a little, and generally recover.  Sometimes filling up with gas is enough and I can get right back on, other times it's half an hour of sitting around in a gas station before I'm ready to go again.

And the other thing that is making most of these trips longer is that I'm taking back roads, and mostly trying to avoid interstates.  That adds a lot of time to trips in general, but it makes for better scenery.  I run into more interesting random things, I get to go through small towns and stop at local restaurants, and it's not just mile after mile of the same thing - pavement, with a McDonald's and a BP at every exit.  It's worth it, but adds time.

But the big thing that added time today was the detour I took... accidentally.  I had a route mapped out that I was going to take (220 to 487 to 287), but I missed the turn onto the first highway - I don't think it was marked well, but I might have just not been paying enough attention.  (Wyoming's boring, what can I say?)  So I decided that instead of going back, I'd just take one of the other roads that met up later.

Now, had I asked Google Maps at this point, it would have advised me to go back.  If you even try to go a third of the way down this road, it says it's faster to go around.  But I trusted the fact that it was a 'yellow' road on the map and figured it can't be that bad... I was wrong.  It turned to dirt and gravel, and didn't get better when I made the turn onto the other yellow road.  I drove through multiple herds of cattle, over some huge rocks and sections of loose gravel, and saw a total of three cars in the hour and a half that I was driving 25mph down this road.

Eventually I got back to pavement, but looked down and realized that I'd gone about 100 miles since I'd filled up, and I didn't know how far it was to the next town with a gas station.  I knew it was going to be at least 70 miles to Laramie, and from Google Maps I knew that there was one small town in the middle, but I had no idea how big it was or if there was a gas station.  I also knew that I was getting slightly worse gas mileage because of the altitude (and even had a few backfires), and when I switched over to reserve about 10 miles outside of the small town, I started to get worried.

Fortunately, there was one gas station in the town of 300 people.  The pump at it was ridiculously old (I didn't take a picture, but it didn't look that different from this), and when you pulled up the lever under the handle, you could hear the pump turn on.  I was worried for a second because I only had $4 in cash on me, and the pump obviously didn't have a credit card machine on it.  Fortunately, they did still take credit cards (I asked if I should pump first then pay, and she laughed and said "Yup, the last place on the planet").

After filling up, I headed on down towards Denver, and it was pretty clear sailing the rest of the way, even if I did end up taking 8.5 hours to get there.  On the positive side, I saw some awesome stuff that I wouldn't have seen if I hadn't gone that way - check out these pictures.


  1. I thought you would have learned about about the yellow roads on our family vacations. There was a reason we always rented 4-wheel drive.

  2. Hey Eric, it's really exciting that you're taking this trip on your motorcycle! What an awesome adventure! From one rider to another, you may want to stop in a Honda or Harley dealer and pick up a Throttle Rocker. It allows you to stay on the throttle and give your hand/wrist a rest for most of the time you're riding. I bought one when I rode out in N. Iowa and never had wrist pain. Ride safe!