May 29th, 2010 - Rocky Mountain High
Early dawn found us packing the bike grateful for a few hours of shut-eye out of the wind. We said good-bye to Paul as he had to head to work and found a Wal-Mart to buy the replacement rack for the bike. Then we camped out at the Golden Arches as per usual, when we need Wi-Fi, to try to find some place to work on the bike. I posted an SOS on the GS Resources forum to see if anyone from the Denver area could help us out. After a few hours we were relieved to get a call from fellow GSer, Tom Kent, who invited us to his home in Littleton, CO. He met us with lemonade and invited us to his granddaughter, Amberlynn’s birthday party down the street where we met the rest of Tom’s family.
We love meeting new people on our trip. So many people have gone out of their way to help us or to make us feel welcome, and Tom’s family was no exception. Tom and his lovely wife, J’Amy, graciously welcomed us into their home, along with their son, Thomas, and cat, Tweak. They made us feel like part of the family while we were there. We were even able to attend Thomas’s graduation. Congratulations Thomas!
Tom is an airline pilot with a love of restoring old bikes. He has a fully-stocked garage and was even in the process of adding a shop to work on his projects. Soon we were swapping stories and chatting like old buddies. Two heads are often better than one, and as we parleyed ideas for the bike, the original project of fixing the rack for the pannier evolved into a multi-faceted task. A three hour job turned into a 4 days of fabrication.
The main problem with the hillbilly racks was that they were aluminum and were not designed to hold anything more than 10 pounds. They broke from the weld joint every time in the same spot leaving the whole rack useless. The cure to that came from a metal scrap yard where we bought aluminum stocks and sheets to make our braces. Two semi V shape brackets on sides, and two on the top did the job but the aluminum tube of the rack was so thin that you could barely put any force on the bolts. We cut aluminum tubes to go over the bolts and keep the main tube from crushing under the force. To make it even stronger, we fashioned four steel tube braces to go from the engine mounts to the boxes to keep the boxes from swinging left and right. To cap it off, we changed the oil and added two 55W Halogen fog lights to the front to fix the lighting problem.
I lived so long with the pain of the old and bent-up side-stand that I almost forgot what a good side stand would be like. Not any more. Tom is the master of fabrication, and all it took was two aluminum hockey pucks and two machine screws to put an end to that old pain. He even welded the backside of the stand to make it sturdier and now I have a fully functioning side stand. Tom promised me to burn that old block of 2×4 I hauled around for under the stand along with his Harbor Freight Sawzall!
We bid farewell to Denver in the late afternoon with plans to head to Laramie to stay with some couchsurfing hosts there. Taking a scenic route through the Colorado giants, we soon encountered breathtaking views and snow along the road. We entered into the Rocky Mountain National Park enjoying peaks at antelope and elk along the way. We had to go slowly in several sections of the road where there was gravel or there were workman taking down trees ravaged by the rampant beetle kill. The light started fading just as to our dismay, we reached a road barricade with no hope of passing through. There wasn’t a soul in site and the official campgrounds we passed on the way had all been closed. We would have to go a long ways back to make it out of the park and into a town, and at this point I was nervous about hitting an animal in the poor visibility. I’ve already had some close calls in the past in my Jeep and wasn’t eager to press my luck, as one wayward deer would likely make road kill out of us on a bike. We tried to call our couchsurfers in Laramie to let them know we can’t make it and soon realized that neither one of us had cell phone reception. We walked around the hillsides trying to get a signal but the cell phone gods were not on our side.
Deciding to forgo dinner as we were too cold and tired to cook, we pitched camp, making sure to hoist our food up a tree a good distance away in case a hungry bear came around. In the morning we met a couple from Germany who was also waiting for the road to open. They said that it was supposed to open that day with a ceremony to start the season. We are heading up north for Montana for a few days. It’s raining and snowing hard in Teton and Yellowstone so we have to make our call…