So I rented a Dyna low rider from Aspen Valley Harley Davidson and John and I took a ride. John, on his HD Sporty 1200 Custom met Kim and I that morning at Village Smithy in Carbondale. After breakfast, we returned Kim to the house and headed out on our journey. My rental came with a Sissy Bag, that we populated with water, spare shirts, rain gear and the trusty DeLorme Colorado Road Map and Gazetter. The high that day was to be no more than 65 degrees with a 10% chance of rain — we were on a mission.

We started down Hwy 133 South out of Carbondale. I was still a greenhorn on a bike, so I led for the most part so John could evaluate my skills and give me notes where I needed improvement. Our first stop was at Penny Springs. There were several cars parked along side the road next to the Hot Springs, yet no-one actually at the springs. In one car, a teenage girl slept in the front passenger seat. There was no occupying the springs that day, as the Crystal River was ripping at a very high rate. The pools were flooded with muddy river water raging from the massive runoff we’ve had so far this year. We mounted and prepared to leave as a hiking couple dwindled out of the bushes across the road. Apparently there was a trailhead nearby, and the hikers chose to use Penny Springs as their parking lot. We were off.

Our next stop was near the peak at McClure Pass. I wanted to get a pic of the bikes with the mountains in the background, plus I needed the break. The standard Dyna Low Rider seat definitely won’t make me forget my La-Z-Boy at home. It’s narrow, and soft, and although that sounds like it would be comfortable, it really wasn’t. I was good for about 30 miles before I just had to stop and stretch.

Next we rode past the Paonia Reservoir, fallen rocks lay sprawled about the road in parts. It was a nice ride past the coal mine, through the tiny mining town of Somerset, then off to Hotchkiss. The ride was slow, with a few spots where we could get over 60mph. The town itselft was small, and everyone seemed to know each other. Our first stop was to be Zack’s restaurant for some renknowned BBQ.

Pulling into the City Market parking lot, we ran into Brian, a co-worker who lives in Hotchkiss. He was in a company truck, a tattered aquamarine colored dinghy in tow. John pulled up and flipped him a bird. Until John lifted up his modular helmet, Brian had no idea who was on these bikes and why they were challenging him. It was a good laugh. “They let me take it out sometimes” Brian smirked about the company truck, but we weren’t there to discuss policy. He told us that Zack’s had about an hour wait time due to the Sheep Dog Competition being in town. He recommended tooling around towards the Black Canyon to kill some time. So we were off.

What Brian said would be a 15 min ride was approaching 40 mins. with the Black canyon no-where in sight. We stopped for a breather and an ass-check, and decided to turn around and take our chances at Zack’s with the crowds. After all, it was about 2PM and the last time we ate was at around 9:00AM before we left Carbondale. I did get some great shots of the Castles at Gunnison (from the back-side).

Zack’s wasn’t what I expected. Just inside the door was a dessert case filled with homemade cakes and pies. Behind it, a wall of smokers. Who I presumed was “Zack” was chopping apart freshly smoked ribs and chicken on a large greasy chopping block tossing respective pieces onto plates as they were placed in front of him. The crowds had thinned, and within minutes we we had a seat at a casual wood-laminate table with folding chairs. The menu was simple and cheap. We each ordered a chicken & rib combo and an ice cold Budweiser draft, which came in real handy.

While we waited for our food and enjoyed our beer, a hispanic bus boy commented on our helmets. “Nice Helmets. Are those your bikes? Mind if I look at them?” he asked. John stared blankly at me and we obliged. “Just dont touch anything” John added. The kid stood at the window, holding a bus tray, with a strange smile on his face as if he’d never seen such bikes. He looked back at our table and gave a thumbs up. Then returned to work.

Everyone at Zack’s seemed to know each other. As new customers walked in they were greeted by wait staff and those already seated by first name. They were asked how the family was, how they haven’t been seen for a while. The community was small and tight-knit. When the food arrived it was more than any one man could eat. The plates, at least 2lbs each, were smothered in meat and slaw and potato, a few dinner rolls tossed on the side. I ate as much as I could and still had 3 ribs left over which I wrapped in foil and stuck in the sissy bag on my bike. We gathered our thoughts, planned the rest of our trip with the Colorado gazetteer, and went outside to walk it off before saddling up.

The debate was whether to continue on to the Black Canyon and extend our trip into a two-day adventure or not. I was on a rental bike, so I’d have to extend the rental by one day and spend another $150, plus any hotelling we’d require. We didn’t plan an overnight stay so we had no camping gear or other supplies other than a spare shirt. The weather was also marginal at best, with afternoon showers imminent. We decided to enjoy what we’ve achieved and return the bike that night. It was already 3:00PM, and the bike had to be back at the Harley-Davidson dealership by 5:30PM so we had a hard ride ahead of us. We were some 130 – 140 miles away from the dealership and needed to press on to negotiate the mountain roads in time.

We pressed on, and headed home. Aside from the occasional asshole on the road, passing us short, it was a good ride. We forwent the scenics on the way back, and the rest stops driving some 40 – 60 miles without breaks, which was tough on that narrow-seated Dyna. John has an Iron ass and rode his sporty as if it were a touring bike, never once a flinch or shufle in his seat. We made it to the dealership 15mins shy of closing. It was a great day.

The plan was to rent a bike in the following weeks and plan a two day trip. I wanted to rent a softtail this time and evaluate which bike I’d set my sights on for a purchase. I wasn’t planning to buy a bike for at least a year. Little did I know what was in store for me next.