Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Riding in Colorado with the Master

This is Charlie6, author of Redleg's Rides, my host for a couple days of unexpected riding in Colorado. Anyone who's followed his blog knows a few things about him:

1. As much as he can he rides all year through all kinds of weather.

2. Riding takes him far afield and into the Rocky Mountains.

3. He racks up miles -- over 60 thousand in the last three years.

4. There's little boasting in his writing.

5. Unless you search carefully you can't quite tell who's behind the helmet. I've taken care of that.

I'll share a few things learned from observation. And a few other things can remain secret -- like the significance of certain street signs and the jungle in Panama.

The casual Redleg's Ride reader may have missed the author's name is Domingo Chang. Or that he's published an article in the BMW Motorcycle Owner's Association's Owner News magazine.

The article is titled Monument Valley via the Million Dollar Highway. It's a good read.

He's a serious rider. A look at his machines, gear, and attention to them give the strong impression that Mr. Chang is not a casual, fair weather rider.

I could go on but I don't want to embarrass him or screw up any chance of further riding should I return to Colorado.

Last Saturday morning Dom gave me the choice between Vikki, the V-Strom I had ridden the day before, or his beloved Brigitta, a beautiful 1987 BMW R80 airhead. With the thermometer reading 29F at departure time I chose the BMW because it had heated grips.

Our destination was about an hour away -- Red Rocks Park -- a little taste of the mountains before I had to fly back east. Once we arrived Dom told me to take the lead, go where I wanted, stop whenever I wanted to shoot pictures, we had plenty of time.

The bad feeling I get of having people waiting for me is one of the reasons I ride alone. I can stop a lot. The day quickly can become about photography and not riding.

As I scrambled up the red clay towards the rocks Dom probably was wondering what the hell I was doing. By the time I returned he said he would ride on ahead and I could catch up. He shot a video of me when I finally caught up. The startling slowness should serve as ample warning for anyone who thinks of riding with me.

The place was beautiful. The sky, the landscape, the feeling unlike anything I experience in Pennsylvania.

Charlie6 is all about the motorcycles. Whenever I turned the camera towards him he commented that the pictures should be about the motorcycles. So I had to switch to stealth mode, useful for reluctant or nervous subjects.

While Dom composed his artistic motorcycle arrangements I grabbed a shot of an R1200 GS (?) putting by.

Dom does look like a police officer. You would think people would steer clear. While we were here an SUV drove up and a woman leaped out and came running over and asked us if we wanted her to shoot our picture. First thought in my head was of Jack Riepe and the stories this encounter could generate. Then I wondered if she thought we looked like the Village People.

We politely declined the offer and I noted a scooter decal in her back window as she drove away. Obviously just a fine, friendly human.

It kind of bothers me that Jack Riepe pops into my head when I'm out riding. What the hell is that about?

Dom shoots as many, perhaps more, pictures as I do. He was curious how our pictures would compare. I'm always interested in how different people see the same places.

Nothing like big, red rocks for subject matter.

I learned something else about Dom when making this picture. He likes his motorcycles just so. When I set up the bike I had turned the front wheel to the left. Opposite of how one learns to leave it when you dismount in an MSF class. But I like the way the bike looks when the wheel is askew.

Dom likes the wheel straight and trotted over to fix things.

We rode to the top of Lookout Mountain and walked up to Buffalo Bill's grave. Only a foothill of the Rockies I still felt the 7500 foot elevation. At this point I wasn't shooting many pictures because the clock was starting to tick in my head and visions of security checkpoints at the airport were dancing in my head.

Going down the other side of the mountain towards Golden, Colorado placed us in clusters of bicyclists making their way up and down the mountain. I was glad to have a motor. At least for a few more moments.

After shooting this picture I couldn't get the BMW started. Dom came over and swore there should be gas in the tank. A quick dismantling of the fuel bowl of one of the carbs confirmed there was gas. Turned out I put the fuel shutoff valves in the wrong position. How would I know? I ride a Vespa.

After another Panama jungle experience we gassed up and hit the freeway to get back home and to the airport before I would have to buy another ticket. Brigitta followed Vikki and at times I saw the speedometer needle pegged at the maximum. Smooth and stable despite a nice crosswind.

Bikes safely back in the garage Dom checks to make sure I've not left anything behind before we go the the airport. Unfortunately we both forget the long underwear I borrowed. (They're in the wash now and I'll mail them back soon.)

At the airport I say my goodbye and head through security to meet motorcycle blogger Richard Machida as he heads back to Alaska. Dom must be a puppet master to pull off all this interaction so smoothly.

By the time my ass sinks into the seat of the Boeing 757 I am really tired. Five hours of riding is a nice sedative before flying. And a great way to end a great week in Colorado. I hope I can return the favor should Dom and his family visit Pennsylvania.

Dom -- thank you for your kind hospitality and trust with your motorcycles. The keys to the Vespa are yours whenever you want.


Charlie6 said...

Dang Steve, you're making me out to be more than what I am, a simple rider. Thanks for the great words...awesome pictures as always, you even managed to make me look good...a near impossible task most of the time.

Your pictures, shot from the same locations as mine, reflect the great photographic eye you have...You are the Master, not I.

You're always welcome here, the motorcycles and mountains are waiting.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bobskoot said...


I couldn't imagine going for a 5 hour ride knowing I had to be at the airport at a certain time. It would be too stressful for me.

It looked like a good clear day to go into the mountains and it is not often that Dom has a chance to take photos of both bikes together, and he is so humble too.

. . . and you did make him look good

Riding the Wet Coast

Steve Williams said...

Dom: Being a simple rider isn't a simple thing. You've definitely thought a lot about what you do.

The fact that I was willing to get in the sidecar is pretty astounding to those who know me well. I think it was probably the last century since I allowed anyone to drive me any distance. I'm almost phobic about it.

Simple rider yes. Master rider yes.

Glad you liked the pictures. Next time I get to Colorado I will let you know beforehand!

Steve Williams said...

bobskoot: Thinking about the ride and the departure time now it seems kind of funny. We got to the airport around 2pm for a 3:40pm departure.

Had anything gone wrong on the ride, well, it might have been kind of messed up. But when you have a chance to ride, especially a vintage BMW, what can you do? Plane tickets are easy to come by...

His wife didn't mention humble. She talked a lot about frugal.

David Masse said...

Thanks for that Steve. What a wonderful experience that you really made come alive for me with great storytelling and, as usual, stunning photography. I feel like I was there having that experience with you and Dom.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

From what I hear, you stole the BMW, prompting a desperate chase through the mountains, during which Dom had to shift up into 3rd gear twice. This was a delightful account of what was obvously a great visit.

The challenge of being in the Rockies comes from the potential to be overwhelmed from one breathtaking scene to the next, which is often only seconds apart. Dom has taken some great pictures, and will take more in the future, as he comes to understand the beauty of trains.

The reason you are starting to think of me when you ride is that my irrefutable lifestyle philosophy is beginning to appeal to you. Had Dom had a K75, that woman whould have shed her shirt and demanded to be in the picture wth you.

The time is coming when you will one day park your scooter next to a red K75 (outside the Spartanville Bake Shop And Organ Donors Cooperative), join me at the table closest the waitress station, and say, "My luck finally ran out."

Fondest rgards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

David: Thanks for the kind words about the photos. Anytime I am in a new environment it is a struggle to see pictures, especially if the landscape is so overwhelming like it is in Colorado. I'm happy they came out ok.

Steve Williams said...

Mr. Riepe: Dom remained subdued but I could tell he could crank up the speed if required. It requires patience on his part to watch a scooter rider on his BMW.

Sitting here during my lunch break and thinking about my riding lifestyle and yours. I suppose until I make the 167 mile ride to the Sunday morning breakfast at the Pottstown Family Diner I won't truly be able to experience your mystical presence.

That said, sometimes things are best left myth. If I do come to breakfast, let's see, on the Vespa -- four hours riding time -- that means a 4am departure time. Possible I suppose. The bacon had better be crisp.

I see there are a lot of K bikes on eBay. Is that because they are so much in demand? Or the opposite??

SonjaM said...

Steve, wonderful pics as usual. Great you guys could meet, I always love these stories.

Honestly, if the master would offer me a ride on a vintage beemer, I would also have risked missing my plane/boat or whatever transport would have been scheduled.

I am a slow traveler myself, and believe there's nothing wrong with it. So please do not be apologetic about it.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

When you decide to come out this way, leave at a leisurely pace on a Saturday afternoon. If you leave your town at 3pm, you should be here by 7:30pm. We'll put you up in the same room we gave Michael Beattie. Just give me a couple of day's notice. Right now, that room has a car parked in it.

That way, you'll be up to dodging food debris at a Mac-Pac breakfast.

At some point, I will find a hotel 167 miles west of here, on Rt. 322, and let you know when I will be lowering property values in your neighborhood. I always wanted to have breakfast in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Like anything else, you can find old K75's on eBay. But the best place to look is on the IBMW list, and there were 4 when I checked yesterday. You can find a Rolls-Royce just about anyplace these days... But even a free one needing an exhaust or a valve job is no gift. I found a red-hot bagain of a K75 for $3k the other day... And if I were in better circumstances, I would have grabbed it for a work bike. It would have been a great candidate for a Sprint Fairing.

The economy is far more precarious than Washington wants the public to know. This is going to be a great year for used motorcycles.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

PS: $3700. Here it is.


ToadMama said...

Great pics. I like the one of the big, red rocks the best. It's amazing that you get to ride so many different bikes. And even IN a sidecar. I'm with you on the solo photo trips. Even with someone who says, "Go ahead and stop as much as you want." It still feels like I'm being rushed. Every now and then I like to go out alone just to shoot so I can stop when I want to take pictures of fun stuff like cows, and rocks, and barns, and much other stuff that leaves my Hubby scratching his head.

Conchscooter said...

If I rode with you I don't think I would straighten any of your photos up. On the other hand I would make merciless fun of you. Correction, riepe and I will make merciless fun of you this summer. I'm hoping to do another iron butt and end up being ravaged by the dogs at Schloss Stiffie.
ps don't take the first room he offers you; when you're fast asleep riepe tends to... well never mind. You'll find out.

Steve Williams said...

SonjaM: I think the ride on the vintage BMW has effected me. Since I've been home I have been looking closely at them on eBay and other places. It's the first serious desire to actually buy another machine.


Steve Williams said...

Mr. Riepe: I'll get down your way sometime soon. Probably a spur of the moment thing knowing how I operate. Showing up at your gathering and sitting in the corner where no one will notice.

I just put my desire for a BMW to rest so I won't have to worry about which K-bike to get. The Vespa and I will continue to travel.

Steve Williams said...

ToadMama: Riding and picture taking are a natural fit for me. With others it could be a problem, especially those that are about riding more than photography.

I'll keep at it.

Steve Williams said...

Conchscooter: Making fun of me probably wouldn't be too satisfying. I'm pretty thick skinned and the attention is lost on me. But I wouldn't want to stand in the way of your fun.

Your comments about Mr. Riepe are unnerving. Maybe I should just wave as I go by??

irondad said...

I try to be artistic but end up being practical instead. Maybe I should settle for photojournalism.

My practical side says to keep the underwear and send a check, instead.

Reading both of your posts makes me envious. It would have been glorious to play with you two! I would even have been glad to stop with you for photos. Probably would have learned something.