After an extraordinarily stressful week of work, I abandoned my plan to get paperwork done at home and hit the road instead. I drew out a route that covered 200 miles through twisty canyon roads, with more than 3,000′ of elevation gain and 10 miles of dirt roads — the first time I’ve taken my Yamaha off the pavement.

For those of you who know a thing or two (because you’ve seen a thing or two) about motorcycles, my Yamaha is a sport touring mount that is set up like an “adventure bike.” But it really isn’t designed for off-road use. However, it’s got decent suspension and I added a skid plate, so I thought I’d give it a try on “fire roads” — those wide, relatively smooth dirt routes you can find throughout the mountains.

But I had a lot of pavement to cover first — and I saw many animals as I rode. I’ve noticed that wild game that are frequently targeted by hunters tend to spend much of their time in national, state and local parks.

IMG_1678These elk were within 50 yards of the Larimer County Natural Resources building. The fence in the foreground is the boundary for Carter Lake Park — run by Larimer County.

I saw lots of deer, but only managed to snap a fleeting picture of fleeing whitetails.

IMG_1684When you’re on a motorcycle, this is where you want to see deer: on the hill beside you, not on the road in front of you. I took this picture from the bike; I pulled over, grabbed my phone, twisted around and aimed without seeing the screen. As you can see, I should probably not take up deer hunting, as I missed this shot badly. 

I stopped here and there to take pictures of interesting sights and offers for amazing products.

IMG_1681I woke up feeling pretty good this morning, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a product that “cures all!” I assume this oil is pressed from rattlesnakes since venoms are often used in various medicines. They also make outstanding poisons.

IMG_1683Long before hitting the dirt, my bike was clean. You can see the new skid plate, which came in handy later in the ride. 

I hustled up and down some fantastic roads; for the most part, there was little traffic. However, there was a lot of sand on the road, left behind from the county trucks that treated them after a recent snowstorm. This led to a few exciting moments when the bike’s rear end attempted to slide around and catch up with the front end until I straightened it up and touched my spurs to its flanks.

At last, I reached the turnoff for the 10-mile dirt road connecting two of the canyons I wanted to ride. This was pretty exciting for me — my other bike is a big touring cruiser and really uncomfortable and dangerous on dirt roads. Assuming the Yamaha would handle these reasonably well, it would open up many routes previously inaccessible to me on a motorcycle.

IMG_1686Fantastic views in all directions. No fences, no power lines and nearly no traffic. These are some of the advantages of unpaved roads in the Colorado mountains. 

The bike performed well in the dirt. It’s much, much worse than a dirt bike but vastly better than a dedicated road machine. This model of bike has a vulnerable oil plug as its lowest point (a design flaw rectified in subsequent years), which is why I added the skid plate. That decision paid off today when I slammed the plate into an unseen obstacle while pulling over at one point to take a picture. Without the plate, I’m pretty sure I would have broken open the oil pan and then walked a couple of miles to find either cell phone coverage or a sympathetic driver.

IMG_1691At 9,000 feet, there’s still quite a bit of snow but fortunately, none on the road, which has been scraped clean and then sun-baked. 

Shortly after I shot this picture, I came upon an even better spot from which to take a similar photo. At last, mixing my hobbies of photography and motorcycling caught up with me. Here’s what happened:

If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see there’s quite a bit of mud at the edge of the road. When I pulled over a quarter mile further than where I shot this pic, the mud was accompanied by a slight downslope. I stopped at the edge of the road to take a quick snapshot while sitting on the bike — I didn’t even turn off the engine.

I pulled out my phone, began to frame the shot…and felt my right foot sinking into the muck. I reached a little further out to find firm ground…and the bike started leaning over. My right foot was on mud that extended a couple of feet. The boot started sliding down, straight towards the woods. I had plenty of time to ponder with horror the inevitability of the coming embarrassment and approaching ground as the bike and I gradually and gracelessly kerplunked onto our sides like a tree felled by a skilled lumberjack.

However, I did get a fascinating photograph:

IMG_1692This is an action shot — as I lowered the camera to grab the left handgrip, the shutter went off. This is the inside edge of the handgrip as gravity calls the bike home. 

The bike was totally unharmed, but not so my motorcyclist’s ego. I was red with embarrassment — I’m pretty sure a cougar somewhere was looking at me with the contempt only a cat can summon and there were probably some turkey vultures gazing down hopefully. The bike scored some mud on the right saddle bag and handgrip, which it’s still wearing as badges of honor. Oddly, I didn’t have a spot of mud on me from the fall.

We rode on (my bike and me) and made it back to pavement without further incidents.

IMG_1696It wasn’t until I looked my pictures after the ride that I learned the phone’s forward-facing lens had gotten a bit smeared in my fall. I had tossed it lightly onto the ground right before I landed and images like this serve as a reminder of my misadventure.

IMG_1702I was really excited to visit Walden, but after riding 92 miles to get there, I learned it wasn’t the same place featured in the classic book. I guess I should do more Thoreau research before choosing destinations.

IMG_1705I rode quickly by this scene and then doubled-back to photograph it. I love how someone turned this bus into a double-decker vista cruiser. This is an idea I’d like to bring to Shark Tank!

Fortunately, most of the ride home was curvy, even though I was in the foothills. I decided to stop for one more glamour shot of my bike, the scenery and the curvy road beyond.

IMG_1710I took the paved road on the left. But it was good to know I could have taken the unpaved road on the right. 

As I reached the end of the day, it occurred to me that this ride was, in some ways, a poetic continuation of the RV trip Penny and I experienced last weekend.

If you read the entry about our visit to Carlsbad Caverns, you’ll recall that Penny asked me if cave explorers were called, “kerplunkers” (they’re “spelunkers”). So, when I walked in the door tonight, I said, “Hey, Penny Lee, today I became a kerplunker!” We both laughed as I described, in detail, my muddy, harmless, silly tip-over.

I guess the motorcycling therapy worked like a charm. I arrived home exhilarated, relaxed, and happy. I was so focused on the riding and the beautiful scenery that not only did I skip listening to music the entire time but I forgot my stress and just had fun and a little adventure.

Goodnight from Colorado. I need to kerplunk into bed.