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Discombobulated - September 22, 2010

By Ray Parden

This was a crazy year, my brother David and I had made a ride in May, but we didn’t get our mid summer ride in because I had planned a trip to Sturgis in mid August. The time constraints that put on my schedule as well as the fact that he was not working because of the failed economy affected our ability to schedule more rides. Summers are way to short and being self-employed is a double edged sword when it comes to taking time off for fun. I had just got back from taking my wife to the Arkansas mountains on what she dubbed as my “guilt trip” and then a week later taking this trip to Colorado with my brother created some stressful work time, but it was worth it.

 Dillion Reservoir

Dillion Reservoir



My flight was an early one so we could make it from his house in Loveland to Steamboat Springs Colorado. Our planned path took us across Rocky Mountain National Park. Riding in Colorado in the spring and fall is always a risky proposition, especially if the ride involves mountain passes. We had been watching the weather and knew that there was a chance of rain but the forecast only called for about .1” or less so we decided to take a chance on going through the park.

When we made back to Davids house from the airport, I quickly sorted through my luggage and loaded my gear on to the bike. We were on the road within and hour. This was only my second trip on my 89 Honda Goldwing, so I was a little nervous as we started out because it is so different from riding my Harley Road King. As we headed toward Estes Park we could see the clouds over the mountains and we knew we were in for some rain. We stopped for gas in Estes Park and donned our rain gear. David had brought his wife’s winter gloves, so he had to wear his summer gloves, which he was pretty unhappy about. He was also questioning his decision to wear his lace up boots because they are not very waterproof. I think the temperature was in the 60’s at that time but we knew it would be a lot colder going over the pass.

We asked the ranger at the park entrance about the weather on top and he told us it was raining with fog and about 50′ visibility. This was not great news but it was a lot better than snow or sleet. As we made our way up the mountain the rain fell steadily on us and the temperature dropped. The visibility was not too bad, but I was not crazy about looking through the large windscreen and my helmet shield as they were covered in rain drops. By the time we made it to the tree line the rain turned into snow. Our gloved hands were soaked from the rain an we could feel the cold creeping in on us making the ride more and more uncomfortable. Lucky for me my bike has pretty good wind protection although I have yet to figure out how the heated grips work – if they do.

As we neared the top it got really cold and the snow made our hands feel like they were in ice water. To make matters worse the wet snow was sticking to our windscreens and our visibility was steadily diminishing. You can’t see over the top of my Goldwing’s screen but I was just barely able to reach over and clear a little spot to see through. Right before we reached the park information center near the peak of the mountain, the road turned to mud and gravel, when I saw this my body stiffened and I uttered a word not suitable for polite company. Luckily we maintained control and made to the parking lot where we got off our bikes and went inside to warm up. David’s hands and feet were soaking wet and freezing, but we had no choice but to warm up as best we could and go on. We did decide that we weren’t going to make it to Steamboat Springs, we would stay at Grand Lake which was just down the mountain.

Grand Lake Colorado

Grand Lake Colorado




By the time we made it down all David could think of was a hot shower and a hot meal. This was our third time spending the night at the Grand Eagle Lodge in Grand Lake. As I was checking in I asked the motel lady if Napoleon was still hanging out at Grumpy’s bar. At first she wasn’t sure what I was asking since I was not from there, but it’s a small town and everyone knows who Napoleon is, he’s the pug that owns Grumpys. She told us his old friend Sage, a giant wolf looking dog had passed away but Napoleon the pug was still part of the local color at the bar. After warming up we rode down to the Sagebrush restaurant for dinner, the elk sausage was the best and the dinner was good as usual.

Grumpy's Bar

Grumpy's Bar




After dinner, when I came back to my bike, there was a piece of plastic on the seat of my bike, which alerted me to look at the back of my bike and I saw the left side of my tail light strip was broken off and the entire piece was cracked as well as some minor paint scratches. I had parked next to an SUV across the street from the Sagebrush and apparently someone had pulled into the spot without seeing my bike and hit it. Luckily they left their contact information at the store that I parked in front of, which made me feel a lot better. It turned out he was a doctor from New York, and paid for the repair. There are still a lot of good people in this world and you tend to meet quite a few of them when you are riding motorcycles.

Grand Lake

Grand Lake




Needless to say by the time we made it to Grumpy’s we were feeling kind of discombobulated at the day’s events, so we had a few beers before switching to straight double shots of Canadian whiskey. About 10 Napoleon strolled into the bar looking like he owned the place – which he does – and he made the rounds greeting all the customers. By the time we made it back to the room we were feeling just right and ready for some good sleep.

The next morning it was still raining. We walked down the street for a good long breakfast and then back to our rooms hoping for the rain to stop. We stayed as long as we thought the motel proprietor would allow us to stay but finally we had to don our rain gear and ride. The sun was breaking through in spots and the view across the lake as we rode away was spectacular. We were in no hurry because the weather would not allow it, so took the scenic route to Idaho Springs.

The last stretch of road that day was interstate highway with a pretty good down hill incline. They were doing roadwork on the other side of the highway and it looked like they were pouring fresh asphalt, and as we rode down the hill I started to smell the heated asphalt. After a bit, my bike started to become unresponsive to my throttle. David was getting farther and farther ahead and my bike starting to worry me pretty bad. Then it hit me… I was riding with my foot on the brake! I don’t know how long it was, maybe 10 minutes, maybe much longer, but by the time I realized what I was doing it was too late, my rear brake was gone. Unfortunately on a Goldwing the rear brake is linked with one of the front brake rotors so I had lost over half of my stopping power. This was not a good feeling. It’s really bad when you can’t tell if you are pressing a brake pedal. There is only about 3” between the foot peg on this bike and the brake and my large size 12 shoe had slid forward and this did me in. So the rest of the trip it was necessary to be really vigilant and alert to the possibility of a sudden stop and use down gearing to assist every stop.

The weather had finally cleared and the afternoon was sunny and cool. We stopped in Idaho Springs for the night found a cool little motel right across the street from a funky old trailer park. I was feeling pretty discombobulated from the stress of the days ride and in need of a beer, and luckily there was a brew pub in town where we had dinner and tried a few local brews. Afterward we walked a few blocks to another bar where we finished our self off again with Canadian Whiskey.

Our final day’s ride was along the Mount Evan’s road and down to Castlerock, again the weather was perfect, however our trips “events” were not over yet. Unfortunately, we had to turn west when the sun was right at eye level on the horizon. David was riding ahead shielding his eyes with his hand which I tried to do as well, but the sun was too intense and my vision was near zero, I couldn’t even see the yellow line in the middle of the road unless I got to close to it. It was a really scary feeling. If there had been a stop sign or even a car in front of me I would not have been able to see it so I pulled over to the shoulder and waited for the sun to set. When visibility finally returned I was feeling totally discombobulated. I turned the key on my bike and the led had a message about being in reverse and indicated my cruise control was on and the bike would not crank, so I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to turn this stuff off, but all I had to do was shift the bike into neutral, crank it and go. I finally figured it out after David called me and asked where I was. He was waiting on the on-ramp which was only a quarter mile up the road, which explains why he felt he could continue on even though he was near blind as well. Finally we made it home right at dark, feeling weary and still discombobulated, but safe.

Blinding sun...

Blinding sun...




Here’s a follow-up on my brakes situation - The brake caliper housing had gotten so hot that it had actually started to melt the aluminum! So I had to replace it as well as the rear rotor. Also, the mechanic put stock pegs back on the bike and adjusted the pedal so this could not happen again… let’s hope so.

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