Posted by: Beemer Bob | July 30, 2012

Colorado Tour of Honor – full report


There is an annual event called “Tour of Honor” benefiting the wounded warrior project. It begins in April and if you are one of the first to visit all of the designated memorial sites within a state, you earn a trophy. For the past two times, I have had some kind of conflict and not able to start in April in order to compete for the trophy. This is actually OK by me as I am not one to scurry around going from site to site anyway. I prefer to take my time and just complete the tour for the sake of completing it and oh, by the way, I do get a pin and a certificate.

Last year, I completed Texas and it took me all the way to the deadline in October to finish. Having conquered Texas, so to speak, I am going after another state and begin earning pins for each state. Let’s see, there are 50 states and if I complete one state per year, I will be 114 years old when done. So then I may stop doing my adventures. I have this philosophy that as long as I have things on my bucket list, it is not my time to go. When the Lord comes calling for me, I simply tell him to look at my bucket list and come back when I am done.

My next adventure is to complete all designated memorial sites in Colorado. I’m heading out in the morning and hope to complete all sites and ride some of Colorado’s twisty mountain roads for the next week or so and then head home.

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********** Colorado TOH – Day 1 ********
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Riding across west Texas is not one of the more exciting things in life, so not much to report today.

My brother (Hap Hazard), joined me early this morning and we headed out from my house near Waco.

One could not have asked for better riding weather especially considering we are in Texas and its July. It was in the 80’s the entire trip. Some threats of rain, but we escaped the wet stuff and the worse we dealt with was light wind.

We rode and rode. By time we made it to Clovis, New Mexico we decided that was enough for one day. We found a motel with an indoor pool, a bar and next to a sonic drive in. What else could a man ask for?

End of day 1

G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 2 ********
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After a pretty nice complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we got off early and headed northwest.

For the most part, the difference between west Texas and east New Mexico is the state boarder. Miles and miles of nothing. After several hours we approach Santa Fee and the terrain begins to improve. North of Santa Fee the scenery turns to beautiful red rock cliffs.
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Shortly before crossing into Colorado the roads and views greatly improved. New Mexico is somewhat restrictive. Beautiful winding roads and views with posted limits of 55 mph. I mean, gee whiz. Being the law bidding person I am, I obediently observed the speed limits at all times.

We were on the edge of a cold front blowing in so the temperatures stayed in the high 60’s. It boarded on being too cold.

We decided to take a coffee break in the town Pagosa Spring. This town is famous for its hot springs and related type resorts. We had our coffee on a deck overlooking a river where lots of folks were playing. It looked cold to me.

As we were leaving, it starts to rain.

As we were debating if we wanted to brave the rain, sleet and hail began to fall.

We no longer debated if we wanted to ride. Back inside for another cup of coffee or two until the storm passed. I’m sure glad we stopped when we did and avoided getting caught in the hail.

The storm did not last long, so off we go. Just in case, we put on full rain gear that turned out to be unnecessary. We rode through the forest and arrived at our last stop for the day in historic Durango.

Durango is a nice tourist type of town with a lot of nice restaurants and bars.

Durango has a trolley/bus that goes around and picks you up near your motel, takes you to the downtown venues and then you can catch a ride back to your motel. So after our thirst had been quenched and our tummies full, we return to our motel and call the day at end.

End of Day 2

G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 3 **********
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We found a nice place for breakfast and headed north on U.S. Route 550 otherwise known as the Million Dollar Highway. The history of why this highway earned this name varies but one thing I know is that the road and views are worth a million.

OMG, tight twisties, and breathtaking views.






We stop in Silverton for a coffee break



We then continue north on the million dollar highway. Breathtaking!







Arriving in the picturesque town of Ouray, we stop for lunch.

From there we continue north to Ridgeway and then head west and hook on to beautiful CO-142, then northwest towards Grand Junction.
As we went west of the million dollar road on Colorado 141, the scenery changes to a more rugged desert terrine. Still mountainous, but not the same as we had before although it is still gorgeous in its own right.


We stopped to view the Dolores Canyon near the Utah boarder.

In need of water to work its Dolores Canyon gold mines, the Montrose Placer Mining company’s built A thirteen-mile canal and flume to deliver water from the San Miguel River. The last five miles of the flume clung to the wall of the canyon itself, running along the cliff face. Constructed between 1888 and 1891, the four-foot deep, five/foot-four-inch-wide “hanging flume” carried over 23 million gallons of water in a 24 hour period. Its construction dazzled mining pros with its sheer ingenuity.

This is what it used to look like.

The placer claim, unfortunately, dazzled no one; after three years of indifferent yields the company folded, abandoning the flume to the ravages of weather and time.

Following is a picture of what remains when we were there.

Continuing towards Grand Junction, the rugged red rock views continued.



We are now in the high desert and the cool mountain temperatures are no more. By late afternoon, it got up to 103. That’s a tad warm.

We make it to Grand Junction and able to find a cheap motel near downtown. After a cool off time in the motel’s pool, we walk to the downtown area.

Downtown Grand Junction is surprising quant with nice shops and fine dining.

We had a great meal and wine at this place that had been recommended.

Well after an enjoyable but tiring day of riding and our tummies full, we called the day done.

End of Day 3

G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 4 **********
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Well this trip was about doing the Tour of Honor after all, it just took a long time to get to the first one that was in the town of Fruita just outside of Grand Junction.

This is the Western Slope Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The focal point of the memorial is a Bell Utility Helicopter (UH-1H) Iroquois or “Huey”, the workhorse of the Vietnam War. The Huey became the symbol of the conflict, as the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all flew missions in the aircraft, and all branches of service are represented here. For me personally, anytime I see or hear a helicopter, memories of Vietnam enter my mind. Whenever we were at a base camp, there was the constant sound of the Hueys. The first time I had the “opportunity” to ride in one, I thought it to be a thrill. I soon discovered that when in combat zone, they don’t land, they just hovered briefly near the ground and we would have to jump out and then run for cover. The thrill of my first helicopter ride was over.

The names of all those from the Western Slope area who were lost in the Vietnam War are listed here.

Afterwards we ride through a National Park called the Colorado National Monument.

Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Bold, big, and brilliantly colored.

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Our goal for today is to make it to the small town of Paonia, CO the site of the “Top of the Rockies BMW motorcycle rally”, so we head east.
But perhaps not the most efficient routes because we “have” to ride through the Grand Mesa area.

Colorado’s Grand Mesa Scenic Byway leads through old-growth forests, aspens, meadows and so many lakes you’ll lose track

At this point we are at an elevation of about 10,600 feet





We arrive in the town of Paonia, the site of the “Top of the Rockies BMW motorcycle rally.

What can I say. Lots of BMW motorcycle and the people that ride them.

I find a place to hang my hammock. I forgot to take a picture, but hey! You know what a hammock among a sea of tents looks like.

The remainder of the evening was spent listing to the provided live music, shooting the bull with old and new friends and consumption of large amounts of adult beverages.

I am able to stumble back to my hammock and pass out.

End of day 4

G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 5 **********
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Today’s quest was for the best hamburger in the world. Seemed like a worthy cause, so off we go.

This hamburger waits for us in the town of Buena Vista. There is a faster way to get there and a shorter but longer in time scenic route through the mountains. We of course take the scenic way.

Our first leg takes us by way of the Black Canon of the Gunnison






Despite the awesome views, much of our time was spent doing this

Waiting for this

A good portion of the road was under construction and we got stuck in several of these blocks waiting for our chance to go through.

The road was muddy and slick and when the pilot truck would finally lead us through, it proceeded at a snails pace making motorcycling difficult. I would have to stop now and then (holding up those behind me) so that I could proceed with a little more momentum for short bursts at a time.

But at last we make it though and the hamburger quest resumes.

Next we ascend up to Cottonwood Pass. On the west side of this pass is dirt/gravel but well maintained and packed, so it did not present any problem.

I waited a while to take this picture without people but these ladies just stood there and looked at me, so I gave up.

But then one of them offered to take this picture of yours truly and she didn’t steal my iPhone. So all was good.

The road down was paved, twisty with magnificent views.




We arrive in Buena Vista early afternoon and very hungry. The trip took longer than anticipated. We “dine” here.

Their signature burger was a 1/2 pounder grass feed beef burger with green chili mixed in. I didn’t think that I could eat that much, so I talked The Hazard into sharing one. He whined about that for the rest of the day because he wanted the whole thing.

It was delicious and they have their own micro brews that are excellent as well. Well worth the trip.

For our trip back to our campsite at the rally we go by the way of Independence Pass.

Independence Pass reaches a high point of 12,095 feet, then descends into the even more beautiful valley of Lake Creek, eventually joining US 24 fifteen miles south of Leadville

The scenery at the pass and all along the route is some of the most spectacular in Colorado and perhaps the finest viewable from a major highway

The road runs right beneath many great mountains including the highest in the state (14,433 foot Mount Elbert)

And rises well above the tree line into the stark Alpine tundra zone, while also passing lakes, rivers, steep sided valleys, thick forest of fir and extensive aspen groves.

It’s currently July but you can still see some remains of snow in the mountains.

Independence is the highest paved mountain pass in Colorado.

This has been a very enjoyable but very tiring ride. I’m exhausted.

We finally make it back to the rally site, eat dinner, listen to the live band and drink large quantities of adult beverages

I climb into my hammock and pass out.

End of day 5

G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 6 **********
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Today, the Hazard and I part company. I to resume my Tour of Honor and him to head to Utah to meet up with some friends. Yes Utah is where the Hazard had his last misHap, so hopefully this time won’t be a repeat performance. Be careful Bro.

I now head up to Golden Colorado for the next memorial site on my list. There is a quicker all highway route or a longer, more scenic route going through the mountains. Guess which way I go.

I passed by the town of Redstone and came upon these old coke ovens.

These beehive coke ovens were constructed in the late 1890’s to carbonize or coke coal mined coal basin for the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. A narrow-gauge railroad, approximately 12 miles long (removed in 1941), brought the coal down grades exceeding 4 percent from the mine to Redstone.

Coke is carbonized coal, a product produced by baking coal in a heated oven. By using a process that allows the impurities in the coal to be burned off, while not allowing the carbon content of the coal to burn, the coal is turned into coke. The impurities burned off were actually the volatile matter contained in the coal, such as tars, oils and gases. When burned, coke generated an intense amount of heat but produced very little smoke, qualities that made it an ideal fuel for use in producing iron and steal and was good for blacksmith operations.

As I continue northward (or sorts), the views and roads do not disappoint me. Fantastic! A portion of my route was on I-70, but even there the views were great with the mountains in the background.

The small world of motorcycle enthusiasts is amazing. Everyone seems to take their toys all over the place and you can meet up with people also 1,000 miles from home. This is Brad from Austin. I met Brad a few years ago when I rode with the Hill Country BMW club out of Austin to the Big Bend area. Brad had seen through my blog that I was in Colorado and told me him and his wife were vacationing in the area and invited me for lunch. Vacationing is a word us retired folks use simply to say we are far from our home base. If you are retired, every day is a vacation. So we decide to meet in Breckenridge.

As I neared Breckenridge a rain stormed loomed on the horizon but I have been lucky this trip so far and able to skirt around the rains, so I did not bother to stop and put on rain gear. That turned out to be a mistake. About 10 miles out of Breckenridge, the temperature drops to about 50 and the sky opened up and dumped its rain on me. I got soaking wet, could not see but a few feet in front of me and thought I was going to freeze to death. On the edge of town was a subway and I ducked in to get out of the rain. Their bathroom had one of those stupid hand dryers that we all hate. But I was able to divert the blower to my chest and kept running it over and over again to warm my core and dry out a bit. I decide that I will live after all and the rain lets up a bit, so I continue to our meeting place to meet up with Brad and his charming wife.

Sorry, no pictures of the charming wife, just me and Brad. We had a very nice lunch. I had the shrimp po-boy and the waitress assured me that is was local catch out of the nearby river.

After bidding goodbye to Brad and wife, it is still a light drizzle so I done my full rain gear which of course made the rain stop and the sun come out.
There in Breckenridge was my second TOH memorial site. This is the 10th Mountain Division Monument

The 10th Mountain Division (Infantry) of the U.S. Army was activated in 1943 because of the need for mountain-trained soldiers who could endure the harsh terrain and weather conditions of winter-time Europe. Camp Hale in Colorado was chosen for its altitude of 9400 feet and varying terrain similar to the Alps and Tyrenees. Soldiers were trained with snowshoes, skis, mountain climbing equipment and sleeping in the snow without tents.

They are perhaps best known for their feats during World War II, leading the way into the mountains of Northern Italy, driving back the Germans after many weeks of heavy fighting. By the end of the war, the 10th had suffered more casualties than any other division.

The 10th Mountain Division is still fighting today in the mountains of Afghanistan.

My next stop is Golden, CO but of course I cannot take the highway, I take the more mountainous route and go my way of Hoosier Pass. And of course, the views and roads are spectacular.

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After some nice sweeping roads through the mountains, I arrive at the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Golden Colorado.



Like the Marines themselves, words are scarce about this memorial, just a quiet pride and immense sense of honor.
Semper Fi.

Today was a long day of nice riding, but I am pooped, so I find me a sleazy motel for the night. I’m too tired to even go out to eat so I heated up some dehydrated something for dinner, but fortunately I had a box of wine, so all was good.

End of day 6

G’nite Y’all

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********** Colorado TOH – Day 7 **********
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Now heading towards the next Memorial site in Woodland Park and of course, I take the most scenic route I can find. Frankly, in this part of Colorado it is almost impossible to find a route that is not scenic so I have to weigh between magnificent views or more magnificent views. I plot my route and head back through the mountains.

Great views most trip but as I get closer to Woodland Park going through the Pike National Forest, the views are somber as a result of the recent forest fires in this area.

Don’t you know that the folks that live in this house consider themselves to be very lucky?

As I travel through the Pike Forest, I came across this series of signs that had been placed by the local firefighters.





Very sad indeed. What was once lush forest now lays barren.

But continuing on, the remaining forest still holds its beauty. Incidentally, during my travels on this trip I saw many signs in front of homes and businesses thanking the firefighters for all their hard work. I too add my thanks to firefighters everywhere.
Much was lost, but much more was saved.

Added to my honor ride, I stopped to give my honor to the famous Donut Mill in Woodland Park.

OK, maybe the Donut Mill is not famous, but some years back we actually lived in Woodland Park and this was our favorite memory of this town so I had to get a donut and take these pictures to send to my wife. I’m having a donut at the Donut Mill and you are not – Ha Ha Ha.

I move now to the Fallen Soldier Battlefield Cross monument in Woodland park as a memorial to all those of all military branches that gave their lives for our country.
“ALL GAVE SOME – SOME GAVE ALL”



The Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, Battlefield Cross or Battle Cross is a symbolic replacement of a cross on the battlefield or at the base camp for a soldier who has been killed. Made up of the soldier’s rifle with bayonet attached stuck into the ground, helmet on top, dog tags sometimes hanging from the rifle and the boots of the fallen soldier next to it. Its purpose is to show honor and respect for the fallen at the battle site. The practice started during the American Civil War or maybe earlier as a means of identifying the bodies on the battleground before they were removed.

Today, it is an immediate means of showing respect for the fallen among the still living members of the troop. It might be seen in the field or base camp after the battle.

Used less today as a means to identify the fallen but more as a private ceremony among those still living as a means to mourn, as attending the funeral is not always possible for soldiers still in the fight.

As “macho” at the military tries to portray themselves, they have mastered the art of making grown men cry. I remember all too well this type of service and attended more than I cared to attend. Our friend’s body had already been sent home but we would have these services as a memorial. They were short and painful. We would be in formation facing the “cross” of our fallen friend’s rifle, boots and helmet while the chaplain would say a few words and the taps was played. The playing of taps is where I and most would usually lose it. After the service, we were expected to carry on and not waste time in mourning – DAMN YOU ARMY.

Next I head to Colorado Springs. From the recent fires I had heard that the quaint town of Manitou Springs had been evacuated, so I took a short detour to see if there as any damage to this cute little town. All seemed well and no evidence of fire in the main section. I guess during the time when the fire was out of control, the officials had taken precautions just in case the fire came through this valley.
Then I headed over to the Garden of the Gods. This site has also been closed as the fires raged nearby. It’s hard to make out in this picture but just down the road from the garden one can charred timers in the background. Fortunately, the they were able to protect the area immediately around the garden

A quick stop at the garden to admire the rocks


It was a Sunday afternoon with nice weather, so there were at least 10,000 people per square foot, so I did not stay long and headed onward to the next memorial site.
Within the city of Colorado Springs I arrive at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Several of the figures had been adorned with artificial flowers

In the shadow of Pikes Peak is this statue of a firefighter rescuing a child. It stands in front of a memorial wall that includes the names of 1,775 fallen firefighters from North America. Included on the wall are the names of 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11, and another 122 names were added in September 2006.




This plaque had been decorated with toy figurines of Batman and Robin. I wondered if there was a story behind this?

Now I headed to Pueblo for the next site. I attempted to find a scenic route but had little success once I got more than 50 miles away from Colorado Springs. The pleasant mountain temperatures were gone as well. It hovered around 95 to 100 most of the way. No offense to the fine folks that call Pueblo home, but this is not one of my favorite Colorado towns.

I find the Medal of Honor Memorial, the site of my next memorial site

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Four of Pueblo’s heroes are the centerpiece of this memorial outside the Convention Center on Heroes Plaza. In addition to the statues there are 3,400 names of the other MOH recipients.

There is a water feature referencing President Eisenhower’s comment, upon placing the medal around Pueblo native Raymond Murphy’s neck, “What is it in the water out there in Pueblo, all you guys turn out to be heroes?”.

The four granite blocks upon which the statues stand, contains a map of where their action took place, as well other awards they earned listed. The designers of the memorial were able to work with each of the recipients to make sure their uniforms and equipment was accurate.

The four Medal of Honor recipients from Pueblo:
William Crawford, World War II, 1943
Carl Sitter, Korea, 1950
Raymond “Jerry” Murphy, Korea, 1953
Drew Dix, Vietnam, 1968

Onward to the eastern Colorado town of Lamar. I though Pueblo was hot but the ride to Lamar proved that I ain’t seen nothing yet. The afternoon was spent going down a straight highway of lands so flat it made west Texas look hilly. The temperature hovered around 105 most of the time. It was a very dry heat that made it slightly more tolerable than humid Texas heat, but 105 is still hot. It filet like I was riding in an oven and breathing the hot air was slightly less than fun.

In Lamar, I make it to the Madonna of the Trail Monument.
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Madonnas of the Trail

A recurring piece of public statuary stands in twelve locations from Maryland to California, tracing a historic travel route from “covered wagon days. The statue is the Madonna of the Trail, an 18-ft. tall tribute to the pioneer mothers who traveled west with their crazy husbands.

The Madonna of the Trail is a pinkish, stony-faced pioneer Mom, in long dress and bonnet, strutting westward with a rifle on one arm, an infant on the other, another little cruncher grasping Mom’s skirt

The Madonnas of the Trail were a project of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, dedicated in 1928-29. They are strung along the National Old Trails Road

This was the fifth Madonna of the Trail statue to be dedicated on the National Old Trails Road from Bethesda, Maryland to Upton, California. It drew the largest crowd of all the dedication ceremonies and the entire town closed down for it. Area pioneer women were honored during the week’s festivities that included parades and dances. President Truman was listed on the program but was unable to attend.

In case you have not noticed, but I have traveled many miles today and spent the afternoon in very hot weather, so I am exhausted. I can go no more. I need to find and air conditioned motel and call it a day.

I find this motel with unusual figures on the balcony above the office.

A place that decorates like this can’t all bad. They had good rates, so I call this home for the night. Too tired to go out, I fix me a fine meal of dehydrated something and attach my box of fine wine.

End of day 7
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 8 ***********
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The previous monument (Madonna of the Trail) was the last on the list for Colorado. So as far as the Tour of Honor ride goes – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. But now I need to get home.

At Lamar, I head south. This was as exciting as riding eat in southern Colorado but at least it is morning and not as hot. I stop for breakfast at the great metropolis of Campo, CO. This is a picture of the café and also a picture of the entire downtown of Campo.
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The breakfast was good but I found the blue balls on the bottom of all the chairs interesting.

I ride through a section of the Oklahoma panhandle that looked like the desolate south east Colorado. Then I ride through the Texas panhandle area that looked like the Oklahoma panhandle.

I arrived in Amarillo, Texas early afternoon. There was still a good 7 to 8 hours riding before I could get home so I was not going to make it today. I could have ridden for a few more hours before calling it quits for the day, but I love the “Big Texan Steak Ranch and Motel”, so I called it quits here in Amarillo.

It’s the Cattlemen’s Hotel for me tonight
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After checking in, I cool off for a while in their Texas shaped swimming pool. Come supper time, I mosey of to the Steak Ranch to rustle up me some grub.
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The Big Texas is famous for their free 72oz steak. That’s right, it’s free along with all the fixings to include a baked potato and salad. There is, however, a catch. You have to eat the entire steak and all the fixings within an hour. If complete this task, your meal is free. If you fail, your bill is $72.

While I was there, two young men stepped up to take the challenge. They were seated at a special high table of honor so we could cheer them on to victory.

There was this Longhorn fan;
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The timers you see to the side were not his. He had been working at his for a while and only had a short time left.

Then later this young lad had probably pestered his dad until he gave in and let him take a whack at it.
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You see a full plate of meat on the lad’s plate and that plate in front containing a side of beef is the portion that he has not gotten to yet.

Wait, it looks like the Longhorn fan is beginning to falter.
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He gets up and gracefully accepts his defeat (and $72 bill) . They do put the rest in a to-go box, so it is not too bad.
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I left before the kids time was up, but he was not making much of a dent and I’m sure dad got a nice $72 bill. But what the hey, I bet it was fun trying.

I return to the hotel and declare the day done.
End of Day 8
G’nite Y’all
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********** Colorado TOH – Day 9 **********
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Rather uneventful today. Just rode and rode and rode.

I made it home by about 5ish. The day is done, the trip is done
Mission Accomplished

Bye Y’all


Responses

  1. Nice pictures of mountain passes, Bob. 😎


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