We met at London Heathrow and Denver, Colorado and trucked to the Marriott Courtyard and the Outback steakhouse. The next morning to the huge all-American Harley shop, where we bought loads of black and orange kit and hired our hogs. Glides for the rest who like to ride with their speakers playing loud music. But before then we blasted back to the hotel and then on up the Peak to Peak highway heading for The Stanley Hotel, legendary set of The Shining and thus with surely the most famous corridors in the world. “Here’s Johnny!”
We stopped for lunch on the way at The Last Shot in Rawlinson for our next set of burgers and ‘Dreadwings’ which took chili to a new place for Daryl, while relishing the comedy value in our glamorous uber-biker Kim Krause, the Queen of the Dirt, first running out of gas and then dropping her bike in the car park as we all watched. More about her later I suspect.
From there the road grew wonderfully clear and windy until we rolled into the hotel and after a few roars around the car-park as you do we settled in a long line of chrome and bike-sex-appeal outside the main entrance and checked into our vast history-loaded rooms before hitting the whisky bar with an energy that respected it’s magnificence. A dull old hotel meal in an empty ballroom meant nothing to an evening of fast growing camaraderie as Simon found a piano and Luke and Ben their guitars and Dan his voice and took to the stage for a bit of Beatles until they told us to stop for some reason. “It’s like Detroit in ’67” said someone fuelled on pints of G&T.
Day 2 on the road saw us refuel with Ibuprofen included and head through heavy Labor Day traffic into Estes Park and up to look at a lake and warm up for the stunning Trailridge Road up through the tree-line and the alpine tundra to the top for a stop to ogle the mountains stretching away below us in all directions. The clouds and skies in these parts are routinely gorgeous, and go on forever, and yet the weather can change in minutes. It did again, drying up as we slipped down the wet hairpins steadily growing in confidence before blatting out along the flat straight road past Grand Lake and on to refuel in Winter Park and then then the rain suddenly arriving and turning to hail FFS and we slid down through the terrifying Berthoud pass to lunch at Louis Sweet Shop in Empire CO, the home of the original Hard Rock Café (the clients were all miners duh), the happy gang of us relieved to be there in one piece and filling the tiny homely place with wise cracks and laughter, ordering their vast thick shakes and fries with everything.
Getting out of Frisco is one of the better things one can do in that town, and at 0900 on Day 3 we set off on the I70 but soon turned off up through Kremmling and over the Rabbit Ears pass to Steamboat Springs as the clouds and the road cleared and the latter flattened out as it took us through the wide and nearly wilderness and we found in full the fun of the open road on America’s Motorbike. We all found it got easier each day, and with Woody roaring ahead to set up his drone, spotting buzzards and glorying in the majestic scale of it all until at lunch-time we pulled up outside the Rodeo stadium and wandered across the river and into town to dine at the very smart Carl’s Bar and Restaurant before weirdly going for a dip in the hot-springs with maybe 1000 mums and dads and kids on holiday.
After the slightly surreal bathing it was back on the bikes down the long lonely lovely Hwy131 and then through the valleys into Edwards and the next range of mountains and after a last 10m blatt down the I70 it was into Vail town centre and joy of joys the 5 star Sonnenalp hotel. Yeehah! My 4th floor room with views to the hills was as big as my first flat and the dirndl and lederhosen clad European staff were all over everything and all was sooo much better than the Holiday Inn. Especially as we had a rest day to come. Vail is a stunning little town, packed for Labor Day which made the Red Lion bar even more fun as most of us wandered through the pedestrianised streets and gathered there to drink beer and chat up the locals.
The meal in the banqueting suite was great fun, proper food this time and a gang all happy together with whomever; humour as ever being the best window into a man, or woman’s, soul. We are a lovely group, some are indeed extrovert; some more shy; none an arse, but most all able to be a bit arsy, which makes for much more fun. “Thank God for extroverts, the shy need us”, said someone.
Our sing along in the bar was again curtailed at 1100 sharp, so with nowhere to ride on the morrow we wandered into town and someone spectacularly hailed a bus, onto which piled 20 or so of us and others, the driver presumably used to apres-skiers carried us happily the 400 yards up the hill to the club under the Red Lion where we bamboozled the bouncer into letting us all in most for free and listened to some homespun rock and roll, having a dance or three before the music went downhill and we slipped away in ones and two’s sometime after midnight leaving Fred as last man standing. Not bad old-timer!
6 of us piled into the truck and drove 20 minutes out of town to the hotel’s top-dollar golf course, where Daryl, Luke and Tom tee’d off dead straight and looked brilliant for a few seconds until the distance warping altitude and the 12-stimp greens reduced them to wrecks, cursing and yelling their way round to 10, 15 and 16 points each, and they can play golf! It was great fun though as we were all in the same boat. The other 3 of Simon, Woody and myself clearly kept their peckers up rather better and we thrashed them, with Simon getting the prize of the spare packet of golf-balls. That night we were back to the Red Lion for supper and then back to the bar for a nightcap and back to bed for the next big day, heading out onto the I70 back to Frisco and then cutting off to Breckenridge, ski slopes everywhere on the mountains lining the road, and then over Hosier Pass to South Park, lunch at the South Park Saloon, Mac and Cheese for the winners, chicken lettuce wraps for the slimmers, then on down the valley past the quarries and weirdly purpose-shaped rubble lorries to Fairplay CO, the South Park town the Creators of the eponymous TV programme came from.
Fairplay boasts the wonderful, incredible South Park Museum which with wonderful irony, given what anyone in the world would think that it would be about, is a whole old-west high street of rescued buildings, train carriages, mine workshops and all the equipment furniture and chattels that went into them. Not an unauthentic note throughout, and we had to be chased out of there to pose for a Who Killed Kenny photo, the combination of old and new fame serving the small community just fine. Then back on the road through Hartsel and over Currant Creek pass to the mighty Pike’s Peak where this tale started.
Down from the peak we rolled into Manitou Springs and the historic Cliff House hotel, settling straight into the outside bar with the surly-amusing barman, “Sit where you like it’s not like I give a fuck”. The walk there was surreal taking us past 1000’s of historic arcade games and pinball machines and slots in what was part museum part mall.
The meal was maybe perhaps the best of our trip, the wines fantastic (A Primitivo 2011 uncovered for just $28, which allowed us the eschew the 100’s of classics way more expensive than that, which was just as well as we split 3 between 6 of us on our very fun table) Yay! The duck duet with blue cheese grits was superb.
Day 7 took most of us out to Fort Carson and several miles of the classic American ‘strip’, the shops and dealerships an endless ribbon broken up by traffic lights every 200 yards until it finally ended with the Colorado Correctional Institute, a frightening looking prison that apparently holds the state’s most dangerous prisoners and the last Governor of Illinois, jailed for 5 for selling influence to the contestants in the race for the senate seat President Obama vacated when he stood for office.
We saddled up in the serious mid-afternoon heat and zooming through the bends to Gunnison and then a long lovely late afternoon zoom to the Elevation Inn at the curiously named Mt Crested Butte. A ski resort in winter it was like most places we stayed about 10% full just now, so we settled round the gas fire outside and drank beer that got colder the longer it stayed out of the fridge.Then happened a great evening as Simon got going on the grand piano and the boys got their guitars out and Harry was cajoled into a bit of tambourine and piano lid drumming and a wonderful singalong just happened. The boys played the Beatles and the Blues and anything else anyone could remember some words to, or find on the phone; the chef had a creditable turn on Bennie’s guitar, just blown away to be allowed to play, Bones showed proper talent and Fred played his harmonica like he was from New Orleans as the band got all bluesy and Woody gave us his Love on the Rocks and we all clapped and sang choruses and drank up Tamara’s late night bar-run and had a gas for hours. Day 8 was another perfect one and we rode out back down to Unison for fuel and then off to the Blue Mesa Lake and after carefully setting up a photo shoot that needed me to hang out of the window of the pick-up while Luke overtook the riders one by one. Todd and Bones had us head straight into the glorious bends of the Black Canyon. No chance of overtaking a tractor in there, let alone a platoon of Harley’s led by Bones Engelman. Then it was a gentle roar down the small quaint high street and on down the deepening valleys to Redstone, the bikers and pick-up truckers losing Todd’s truck somewhere along the way. Redstone General Store sold us lots of ice cream and we meandered around the beautiful and historic little town with a beautiful river running through it before heading out onto the road to Carbondale.
Just as we got started we passed a school bus and it and the 6 cars queueing suddenly started honking and yelling and waving fists. We had clearly done something wrong, but I didn’t know quite what until 20 minutes later we rolled into Carbondale and a police road block.
Oh yes! Daryl’s dream of the Sons of Royalty getting jailed looked like coming true at last. It turned out that as Bones passed, the bus stopped and put out its quaint little stop sign and flashing lights, which meant the rest of us behind him should have stopped, but at the 50 odd speed limit we were doing that would have been nuts even if we had known the rules. Gretchen the cop was a sweetie and thanked us for pulling over, Benny explained that was because she and Bill her more grumpy mate had guns and we didn’t and Woody then drew on his years of doing a job like theirs and laid out the case for the defence, but in truth they were amused more than angry, the English accents doing their work as ever. Daryl almost got them going when explaining his view that we were a genuine invasion force and this was thus the was the first invasion the USA had suffered in 200+ years, which slight tension was defused as Benny noted that we had not got that far on that quest before meeting our demise. After posing for photos (getting the fire brigade guys to take them) and generally being great sports they waved us on our way down Hwy82 to Aspen.
I guided us down to Jimmy’s Bodega: Armen, Brian, Luke and Tom, and we had a beer there with the friendly pretty waitresses and barIady and then went to meet all the others outside at the Jerome Hotel where (as every time) we drank Coors Banquet beer and Miller Lite and cider for the gluten-allergic Brummies. An hour or two of that saw us back on the bus to the Meadows to meet Chris, the band’s hitherto missing bass player, as tall and laconic as are seemingly all the bass-tribe, and his bubbly girlfriend Laura.
After our night in Aspen, Day 9 saw us zoom up the magnificent winding road to Independence Pass, all of us much more confidently cool at pace now. We stopped at the top to let the drone capture the views and then headed into Leadville for lunch at the High Mountain Pie café, a little shack down a side street of the seriously well-preserved and historic lead mining town. We ate fantastically good pizza in the garden before blatting off on Hwy24 to Red Cliff, an old mining town. Except we found a photogenic bridge and curvy road and set up a drone shot and then raced back and forth over the bridge to hopefully make some great shots. The Inn at Silvercreek was a vast old resort place, ‘the largest wooden structure this side of the Mississippi’ the maintenance man told me, and full of quirks and 80’s TVs and the like. But the beer outside was cold and the dinner fine and we hit the games room like a bunch of kids, though because we aren’t we soon all went to bed knackered.
Our last day of riding UP the mountain was incident-free. We gathered on the high plateau of Summit Lake just below the top – the road to the very top being closed for (mountain) sheep shooting. Only in America. The narrow bumpy road would have been a real struggle on the first few days, but we just zoomed down it stopping to ogle the vast views all around us. Magnificent stuff.
I ordered nachos thinking a starter would be small and quick, but 20 minutes later a Kilamanjaro of nachos and beans and cheese and pulled pork and god knows what else arrived in front of me. It was utterly delicious but 20 minutes later I hadn’t eaten half of it and we had to go. Saved from obesity by the band needing to do its sound checks over at the Boulderado Hotel in guess where.
Daryl had dinner and the band all set up on the 2nd floor – in effect the mezzanine of the huge old western style atrium, all dark wood and old money, and the committee met while we got stuck into the bar and then we ate and drank just fine until Daryl stood up to announce the awards. He was brilliant and brilliantly supported by Danny as they gave out the awards and their versions of the various tales above:
- The Brigadier Richard Dennis OBE award for the geographical challenged – Woody for his morning long antics (not) on the road to Pike’s Peak. I protested that Kim should have been mentioned in dispatches but was shut up. Her turn would come.
- The Natural Born Rock Star award – Tom. For out-Rock’n’Rolling the Rock’n’Rolllers, drinking and dancing and entertaining all to excess and generally frightening the staff everywhere we went. So proud!
- The Sid Bishop “Watch It Come Down” award for demolition – Woody, with help from Tom. The Stanley Hotel post dinner antics over, The Dangerous Brothers decided to go into town in search of entertainment. Having seen the winding road out of the hotel, they decided to take the military “direct” route across the fields. Several fences hoved into view in the dark, and time after time they proved no obstacle, as Woody simply crashed through them, covering himself in mud and dirt. Having yomped into town, the only bar that was open was full of 25 stone women with approximately 2 teeth between them. Having supped up their beer and asked for a cab to be called, they soon lost patience and decided to walk back. Tom lost patience again after 10 mins’ walking, so strode into the path of an oncoming cab, then boomed at the driver “you will take us to the Stanley Hotel”. Having arrived, they asked the driver how much they owed him, and he replied “I’m not a taxi”…
- The Visionaire award – Luke for going into the opticians next door to the Avis rental shop. I told him where to go for after he’d parked the truck, so Luke strode in purposefully and told the receptionist he was returning his rental vehicle. She politely told him that was nice, but he needed to go next door, as he was in the opticians. Should have gone to SpecSavers..
- The It’s All About Me award – Kim, Kim Kim, naturally. Having dropped her bike and run out of gas on the first day, it was clear to all at the outset that Kim was an attention seeker par excellence. She proceeded to stick the lips on every woman in her path, drink and smoke more than all the boys, before striking out in the wrong direction at the Echo Lake Lodge, leading Ben and Simon on a high speed chase over Squaw Pass and down the mountain, rather than up. They tried valiantly to keep up with the crazy banshee, but eventually lost sight of her. Almost 32 miles later they rounded a bend to see her waving, and her bike upside down in a ditch. She “swerved” to miss a cyclist, and stacked the Harley. It took 4 of them to pull it out. The bike was a bit mashed up but she was largely unscathed. A real tough girl that one who just cannot abide being anywhere other than the centre of attention.
- The Oscar – a huge piston and engine sculpture – Freddy for falling utterly for Daryl’s (supported by all) spoof that tights were essential biking wear. He wore his, proclaiming their virtues and comfort throughout and only knew he’d been had when the award was announced. Fantastic stuff. And best of all he choked when making his winner’s speech, overcome with love for his great big tearaway boy.
And then The Band played, Harry on Cajon which may sound like a single ball, but is actually a wooden box, and the rest all lined up on barstools. A wonderful show of 11 songs opening with their own Stand Up and ending with When I’m Dead And Gone. We roared and clapped, Tamara and Tom jived and he only went and dropped her on her tiny behind, but she elegantly stretched out a hand and twirled back into his arms. Classy Dame.
And after that we talked the hotel man into wheeling the piano up to the edge of the party and Simon tinkled on the ivories getting all emotional duetting the Floyd’s Nobody Home with the tone-deaf Kim happily on phone-lyrics, until we moved down to the basement jazz bar where we all got utterly happily smashed, Simon the star of the show, being overcome with love for one and all and planting huge kisses on anyone who sat still for too long. It was just a gas, all of us flying along, mates and happy, talking whatever to whomever and laughing at every turn. Brilliant. I went to bed when the bar closed at maybe 2 but a few heroes continued on into town but I know nothing of that. Nothing I’m telling anyway.
So ended a fantastic trip across stunning country on magnificent machines by a wonderful gang, full of character and humour and kindness one for the other. Another great trip to have done in a little old ordinary life.