Charley Barnes Recounts His 10,000 Mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride – Leg 9 [PICTURES]
The 2-week series comes to a close today as I recap the last day of our attempted 10,000 mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride. Today, it was Mike's turn for a setback.
Leg 9 – 839.1 Miles
I woke up the morning of Monday, June 15 and peeked out the window of my hotel room, as I did every morning, to see Mike already has his bike loaded and ready to go. Seems as though he had got the departure time wrong from the night before as the plan was to be up at 8:00 a.m. and on the road by 9:00 a.m. but had gotten up at 7:00 a.m. to leave at 8:00 a.m. robbing himself of an hour of sleep.
I walked outside the room and after exchanging "good mornings," he said, "dude, you have to come look at this." I immediately said, "now what? I'm not looking at anything until I take a shower." Mike must have seen the look on my face of utter dismay considering everything I had already had to deal with and said, "no, it's my bike this time."
Now I have to admit, I felt really guilty, because I was elated it wasn't me this time and perked up to see what the issue was. We still chuckle about that because Mike felt horrible from that look of sheer disgust on my face at that moment in time.
He took me out to his bike and told me to look at his rear tire. We both got down to look underneath and his tire was bald as balk can be; like a racing slick. The belts of the tire could easily be seen and it was apparent we weren't going anywhere that day until Mike got a new shoe for his sled. The heat of the road from the day before had taken it's toll and again, the Angels were with us putting those traffic jams in front of us keeping our speeds down on those blistering roads. We still shudder to think of what could have happened.
A government study done in Arizona showed that asphalt pavement was hot enough to cause burns from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during Summer months. The same study mentions that it was actually hot enough to cause second-degree burns within 35 seconds from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
I jumped in the shower while he jumped on the phone and by the time I got out he was already on the road back to the Harley dealer which we had passed coming into town about 10 miles back the other direction.
I quickly loaded up my bike and made my way back West to Grand Canyon Harley-Davidson stopping off at McDonald's to grab us both some breakfast. When I got to the dealer, Mike's bike was already up on the lift with the rear tire off. Now here is another sign of the Angels that were with us on the trip. The dealership is not usually open on Monday but they had a backlog of bikes to work on so were open trying to get caught up. On top of that, there was a guy there who had just dropped off his bike for a 20,000 mile service and overheard Mike's conversation with the Service manager about what we were doing and how we needed to get on the road ASAP. The other gentleman said his bike could wait and to go ahead and put Mike's bike in right away so he could get back on the road.
We relaxed a bit, drank our fill of coffee, ate breakfast and before we knew it, his bike was done and ready to load. With the delay, we still expected to be home somewhere between Midnight and 2:00 a.m.if all went well the rest of the way.
It was time to head East on I-40 through Arizona riding through Winona, Winslow, Holbrook, Petrified Forest National Park and into Albuquerque, New Mexico where we would make the turn and head North on I-25 to make that final push home.
Mike and I made it to just outside Las Vegas (the other Vegas) and decided to get our rain gear on since the skies in front of us were jet black. It was obvious after looking at radar that we would be riding in rain pretty much all the way home by the looks of it and it was getting dusk so we weren't taking any chances. By the time we hit Wagon Mound, New Mexico, it was raining so hard we couldn't see 20 yards in front of us. Speeds dramatically dropped but we got through that cell and made our way into Raton where we stopped for gas and a needed break to drop the stress level a bit. (Picture of my odometer in the gallery below was in Raton where it rolled to 9000.0 miles on the nose.)
We rolled on up I-25 and rode through spits of rain here and there and back into Colorado when the light show began just North of Trinidad. The lighting ahead of us was incredible and quite awesome to watch but we also knew what it meant; a massive storm that we would have to deal with. When I say massive, the thing was huge. We had never seen lighting like we were seeing and it was just incredible in the pitch black night. By the time we got to the South edge of Pueblo, our weather alerts were going off non-stop so we decided to ride as far through Pueblo as we could and pull over to get a good look at our radar apps.
Wow! The storm was just massive and was dropping inches of rain between us and Colorado Springs. When you see lots of red on a radar that means LOTS of heavy rain and what we were seeing was radar in the purple which is beyond extreme. There was no way we could ride through weather like that in the daytime, let alone at night. Even if we did want to chance it, we couldn't because they had I-25 closed South of Colorado Springs due to flooding.
Several people had advised us that it was also a deluge back home and should just get a motel room and hunker down for the night. There was no way we were going to do that being so close to home so we'd wait it out and that's what we did...for 2 1/2 hours.
By the time we made it to Colorado Springs, it was apparent that we had made the right decision to stop in Pueblo. Cars were flooded on the side of the road and there were even several rescues from some who were stranded in floating vehicles. Mud and debris were scattered across I-25 in a couple places and it was quite uncomfortable. Although it was still raining, it was manageable and we made our way into Monument for what would be our last stop for gas.
It has quit raining by that time but we left the rain gear on because we weren't sure what we'd hit from there on and quite frankly, way too tired to take it off and it provided a good wind break anyway.
We made it through Denver and hit Highway 34 to make the final turn East into Greeley where Mike would follow me home so we could say our goodbyes, shed the rain gear and unwind for a few minutes. Upon our arrival around 5:00 a.m. the morning of Tuesday, June 16, we were greeted by a sign in my garage made by his wife Diane along with their Daughter Ashley and my daughter Taylor welcoming us home. The ride however would not be complete until Mike had made it safely home to Ault, so I waited up until I received his message, officially ending the 2015 Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride...and what a hell of a ride it was!
I finally got to bed around 6:00 a.m. and got up about Noon as I had to be to work that day and begin this two week series recapping our journey. I have always been the first to admit that I am not a professional writer, I just do the best I can and it is my sincere hope I have done this ride justice in making you feel like you were on it with us. Of all the the things that went wrong, there were by far more things that went right and I wouldn't change any of it; I know Mike feels the same way.
Tomorrow I will give my final thoughts on this adventure and hope to have all my GoPro video I shot along the way done for a complete montage of the ride as I tried to capture as many things as I could along the way.
Until then, our sincere thanks to everyone who was a part of this adventure and to everyone who followed this ride, staying up late to keep track of us, and to all of you who offered prayers for a safe journey. We couldn't have done it without you!