Monday, March 28, 2011

An Unexpected Ride

Arriving in Denver last week to attend the CASE Editor’s Forum the last think on my mind was riding. Walking the streets it was hard not to think about it as I passed scooters on the sidewalk and watched riders pass by on the street. Riding gets in your blood and it doesn’t take much to trigger desire.

The city seemed to belong to scooters. Maybe the motorcycle riders bloom later this time of year. The Triumph was the first motorcycle I saw all week but would not be the last. Serendipity, a stroke of good luck, or just a fortunate chain of coincidence, Dom Chang, aka Charlie6, author of Redleg’s Rides, determined I was in Colorado and contacted me about meeting at the end of the conference.

The conference ended early Friday afternoon and I was soon standing at the light rail station waiting for the train to take me to Nine Mile Station. The ticket cost four dollars but no one on the train ever asked to see it. As I suspected Denver residents are exceedingly honest.

As trains go this one was first rate with lots to see inside and out. Loved how much is invested in artwork along the train route and highways – etched images in the concrete of buffalo and prairie. Pennsylvania puts its cash into wildflowers.

At one point we passed the place Union Pacific locomotives go to die. There were hundreds of them decorated nicely by enterprising artists for their eventual move to the recycling graveyard.

Riders are everywhere in Denver including on the train. I asked this young woman if I could take her picture as she leaned against the back of the car with her bicycle. After removing her earphones and listened to my question she nodded and I made the shot. Everyone in Denver was nice. Even the two young people I gave money to the day before because they needed bus fare after losing their wallets.

This is where Charlie6 lives.

A plainsman who also rides in the mountain wilderness of Colorado. Well, not quite. After picking me up at the Nine Mile Station in a new BMW X5 we made our way to his home where he introduced me to Vicki and Brigitta. Natasha was away. After telling me he had some work to do he suggested I take Vikki for a ride. For a moment I wondered what Jack Riepe would say.

Not every rider offers up their motorcycle to another rider and I was honored that Dom trusted me enough to take care of Vikki, his DL1000 Suzuki V-Strom. After cobbling together some gear he suggested I ride east towards the plains. After about 20 minutes the traffic lessened and the development gave way to more open and rolling roads.

Dom suggested I return in about an hour to have dinner with his family. When questioned about directions I assured him I would find my way back. After riding for half an hour I parked the bike, took a few pictures, and promised Vikki I would take her home. I assumed she knew the way.

Watching the clouds move in from the mountains I had to stop and make another picture. It was hard not to think about those mountains in the distance but people would be waiting for me.

I should probably comment on the V-Strom. Nice bike. It has always been on my list of machines to consider owning and now I know why. Tall but easily managed. Fast. Nimble. Reliable. Couldn’t ask for much more. The soft sand and fine gravel mix on the sides of the road meant I had to be careful to not park in a place where the kickstand would descend into the softness and tumble Vikki to the ground.

And still, those mountains in the distance were calling. I couldn’t ride to them but I did stop often to make pictures. And the clock continued to tick. As I rode back into town the landmarks got blurrier until I found myself lost. Dom chuckled when I called on the cell phone. He knew no one could find his or her way back to his place. An hour late I met his wife and kids and sat down to a fine dinner.

Before dark I was invited to take a ride on Natasha, a Ural sidecar rig. The light was fading fast and I asked Dom if there was a place with a big sky to make a picture. He knew a place. Minutes after we arrived a fellow raced up on a Royal Enfield screaming, “Hey, that’s a motorcycle with a sidecar.” As he bent Dom’s ear I made a few pictures of this modern version of a motorcycle classic.

A quick portrait with the Ural. When I commented how much he looks like a police officer Dom told me that he had heard that before. He’s one serious rider.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to spend the night until later in the evening. With the promise of more riding in the morning we headed into town to pick up my stuff at the Grand Hyatt. If necessary I bet Dom would pull a tux out of the trunk of the sidecar.

The valet raced out when we arrived, not to welcome us to the hotel – he was a scooter rider enthralled with the Ural. It is an interesting machine and Dom wanted to make sure I fully appreciated a properly setup rig after my less than pleasing ride on Piaggio MP3 with a sidecar.

After an enjoyable ride in the sidecar and enough time piloting the rig to determine how it handled I can say that it was a pleasure to ride. Even with all the weird characteristics of the Ural. Things like marginal braking and grinding gears.

I could see myself with one.

The ride home was fast on the freeway. With temperatures dropping into the thirties I just pulled the sidecar cover up around my neck and enjoyed the ride.

A great first day of riding in Colorado!


Charlie6 said...

Hi Steve and great posting highlighting Denver and actually making it look, even the graffiti.

That guy on the Enfield sure seemed full of energy, he was quite ecstatic when his motorcycle started after only two kicks!

I should have had you man the GoPro camera on our rides to/from the downtown area in the Ural....would have been cool.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

bobskoot said...


Welcome to the BIG city. We also have lots of young people here with "lost" wallets, or cars towed away. They knew you were a visitor.

I'm glad you managed to spend some time together and ride. I think I would be in heaven in the sidecar, it would give me a chance to do more photography while in motion. So now we can call you a Sidecar Monkey

Riding the Wet Coast

Mike said...

Wonderful post and photos, Steve! It's nice to see your unique style of photography in a different setting.

I can't help but think it would be cool for bloggers to meet in a central location somewhere.

Steve Williams said...

Charlie6: Denver was a strange and exotic place for this rural Pennsylvania rider. Would have loved to have more time to explore with the camera.

That Enfield seemed perfectly suited for that guy's personality.

The GoPro would have been cool. Especially if I managed to capture the hard work that goes into stopping Natasha at a sudden redlight!

Steve Williams said...

bobskoot: Sidecar Monkey. I've been called worse.

I was surprised how many people asked for money. And how rehearsed they were. One had a whole performance. I felt like clapping.

RichardM said...

More great photos. I really like the "big sky" shots especially the ones in the evening. I like the color of the sky. The one with Dom and the Ural is classic and he really does look like a LEO in that shot.

It was great meeting you and I wish there was more time. Didn't even get a chance to talk photography.


Steve Williams said...

Mike: Thanks for the kind words about the pictures. My beat up old Canon G9 still does a nice job.

A lot of bloggers will be at the BMW event this summer!

Steve Williams said...

RichardM: Good meeting you too. Had we started talking photography I bet one of us would have taken a picture.

Dom is a good subject. In my next post He'll play a bigger role -- almost a star!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Williams:

I am not at all surprised that Dom tossed you the keys to his new V-strom. He is a very generous and considerate individual, who recognizes another dedicated rider. He knew you'd take care of the V-strom.

Then again, I noticed he didn't toss you the keys to the BMW. There are limits. He told me he was going to pull the release, and set the sidecar free on the highway, so he'd finally have an award-winning GoPro project.

Dom must have change his mind, or he's saving that trick for Bobskoot.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

The much honored Mr. Riepe: Dom is a trusting man and I endeavored to live up to it.

I'll look forward to bobskoot's description of freewheeling in the sidecar.