Alright people, this is it. Last update of the trip itself.
There was one more major National Park that I wanted to get through on my way home, if only to make as much use of my annual pass as I could; Rocky Mountain National Park.
I'd gotten to the outskirts later in the day, and it was cold, and slightly drizzly. It was too late to enter the park and actually get through it, and the weather was too lousy to see much of anything anyway. I made camp for the night in some national forest land just outside the park, in a clearing where it looked others had camped before.
The next morning dawned much nicer then the evening before
After stopping at the visitor center on the way in to the park to recharge my camera batteries, I headed in. Frequently along the roads you'd find a crowd of people stopped and peering into the forest, cameras at the ready, as the locals would make themselves seen.
The Trail Ridge Road is another high-altitude mountain road. It climbs quickly through some rapid switchbacks and steep grades, climbing 4,000 feet in just 15 miles, and gives impressive views along the way.
But the high altitudes also brought rain, and cold. It was perhaps 40 degrees, and I was in my heavily vented mesh summer jacket, with just my rain gear over it. High altitude mountians have very unpredictable and random weather patterns, and while one could often see areas in the distance that were clear and sunny, right here was windy, cold, and rainy. With the occasional snow.
Yes, that would be snow.
The road peaks at about 12,500 feet, and there's a few little pathways to walk to some lookouts.
(This is probably my favorite picture from the park)
I feel like I should have stayed there longer, but I was cold and it was not a pleasent place to be. If I'd been in my yellow suit, with it's waterproofing and insulation, I would have probably been happier, but even then, it makes riding in crappy weather just tolerable. I kept on going down the road, eventually dropping back into the tree line.
The mountians spit me out into another touristy little town, where I found the library, and touched base with the internet. A contact of mine from SomethingAwful/ADVRider had generously offered me his couch in Denver, which I planned on making it to that evening.
Gotta love a library that appreciates motorcycles.
The rest of the day was pretty decent. Even with the fading sun, I took advantage of the last of the mountains that I was going to see for a while, taking Highway 7 down to 72, then to 119 and finally getting into Denver well after dark.
PlasticSun and his girlfriend were incredibly generous, giving me use of their shower, couch, and the luxury of a home-cooked meal for the night. And while being inside again was always nice . . . that was it. The trip was over. All that was left was three days of booking it across the flatland.
This was my view for the next three days. I even said hell with it and spent it all on the super-slab. The country roads here are going to be just as straight, just as boring, but with more frequent and annoying stops. So hell with it. It was interstate.
Well that's an interesting tactic.
Stealth camping in the plains is always a lot harder then anywhere else, because there's so little in the way of concealment. Before I left Denver, I'd scouted out some National Forest land in Nebraska (Forests, in Nebraska? Really?) that I should be able to camp in that night, so it was my target. I arrived WELL after dark, but that trapezoidal sign is always such a welcome sight.
It turned out that I wasn't wrong in making that "Psh, Nebraska doesn't have trees!" crack. This is their version of a National Forest. I am not joking.
They have a very different definition of a forest then I do. And this road was AWFUL. Deep, sloppy sand.
I'd come in this way, but I think if I had come in during the daylight, I would have turned back. How the hell had I made it over this in the dark?
Once I got out (without dropping it, go me), I did find up the road that there were a few trees, and a proper campground. Ah well. They would have wanted money, and I like keeping my money. Not like I really had much left at this point anyway.
For the first half of the day, I did make an attempt to stay on country roads that at least ran by rivers, so I would have something to look at. But there wasn't much, and soon I was back on the interstate. I'd been dreading the end of the trip for so long that by now, I just wanted it to be over. Which sounds really strange, but I guess it's like getting a shot at the doctor's office or something. Just get it over with already.
The next two days consisted of super-slab, with meals of $5 Little Ceaser's pizzas and $5 boxes of fried chicken from grocery stores. That night, I camped in a Koa campground, because I had a feeling that stealthing it wasn't going to work, and they had free internet.
The next day was completely uneventful, with more endlessly horrid interstate. But for my last night on the road, I did stealth camp at least. I found a country road, and in my most brazen attempt at camping on the whole trip, simply road the bike straight off the road and into a grove of trees. It could have ended badly I guess, but my luck continued to hold, and I ended up in a clearing just big enough for the bike and the tent.
And on the last day of my trip, the day I was getting home, in the middle of Illinois;
(Actual mileage is ~1400 more then that, due to the time with the broken speedo cable, but still)
And then, at ~4:15pm on September 19th, 2009, four months and four days after I left, I pulled back into the driveway.
I was done.