Sometimes a Compromise is all it Takes

Story by Michele Hengen// Photos by The General Store Photography
March 1 2014

When there are different opinions of what a bike trip should be, ingenuity becomes the mother of invention, and a homemade toy hauler satisfies both parties

My husband, Les, is an adventurer; in July 2011, he rode from Victoria, British Columbia, to Alaska and back home to Sundre, Alberta, in 11 days. He rode by himself and camped for most of that 8000-kilometre trip.

Personally, I like to ride at a more leisurely pace, and I’m sure other passengers out there would agree with me. We love the experience of riding two-up with our men, but do not want to do it for 12 hours a day.

With that in mind, we have come up with a solution. My husband converted a cargo trailer into living quarters in the front and a garage in the back to haul our Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited. He designed it specifically for our needs, and it has every comfort I could want in 32 feet. I like to call it the “Loft” because it’s industrial on the outside, but comfortable and cozy on the inside.

During the last week of September 2011, our first “big” trip with the trailer and bike was to Colorado. We purchased fast-food meals on the first day, as crossing the border with groceries can be tricky depending on what is prohibited at the time. We’ll usually treat ourselves to a few meals out to experience the local cuisine when we travel, but it is more economical and probably healthier to make most of our own meals on these trips, so the next day, we stocked up at the grocery store in Great Falls, Montana.

Mount Rushmore

Over the next couple of days, we made our way through Montana and Wyoming to Colorado, where we found a campground in Colorado Springs. Here, we unloaded the bike and parked our trailer for the next few days.

Our first day was spent on Pikes Peak and at Garden of the Gods. The trip up the mountain on the bike was spectacular. The road wound back and forth, up and up, until we reached the top at an altitude of 4300 metres. The views were amazing; we could see in every direction. All around us, the evergreen forests were interspersed with the vibrant yellow autumn leaves of the deciduous trees. The next stop was Garden of the Gods. It was smaller than some of the other red-rock parks we have been to, but was still worth a stop.

The next morning was cool, and this is when we discovered that I had left my heated jacket at home. The route to Durango was a great ride as we travelled up through mountain passes and down into the flatlands, but always surrounded by breathtaking scenery. East of Alamosa, we experienced wind like we’ve never experienced before, so it was a relief to stop for a break and a bite to eat. In Durango, we took the trolley from our hotel into the downtown core for supper. It’s a scenic town, and I wish we had had more time to explore.

Colorado Steam Train In the morning, we made a quick stop to purchase a heated vest for me, as we were passing through high altitudes and some cool weather. It took us the whole day to travel just over 160 kilometres from Durango to Montrose, because I had to stop so often to photograph our surroundings. Silverton and Ouray were picturesque, but the real star was – again – the autumn colour. The next morning, we headed back to Colorado Springs.

Just a few kilometres west of Colorado Springs is Manitou Springs, our last stop in Colorado. We took the truck rather than the bike, as it’s easier to wander through shops without all of our gear on. One of my favourite things to do on a trip is to search for local artwork, and we found some gems in Manitou Springs. We also checked out the ancient Manitou cliff dwellings of the Native American Anasazi culture, which overlook the town.

After some discussion, we decided that our time in Colorado was done for this trip, and we were going to head north to Mount Rushmore. Now, making changes in the itinerary is totally unlike me, but I decided to adapt. And it was so worth the change. It took a couple of easy days of driving, and we arrived in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We did a quick ride through Deadwood and into Spearfish Canyon the day we arrived, but the real treat was Mount Rushmore the next day. For some reason, it awed me more than the nearby Crazy Horse Monument, which is larger but still under construction (and will be for some time). We spent the rest of the day riding around the Black Hills. The Needles Highway was interesting with its unusual rock formations. It was a long day on the bike, but so much fun.

With our time on the road nearing an end, it was time to head for home. Riding north through South Dakota and into North Dakota, we stopped just outside of Williston on the Missouri River. The Lewis and Clark State Park was lovely, and we camped on the last night it was open for the season. Our last day was longer than expected when our plans to camp at Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Alberta, were thwarted with the threat of snow. We pressed on toward home and arrived late at night on October 7.

What a great first vacation we had with the Loft! We have been on two other trips since this one, and we continue to perfect this form of biking adventure. Having the Loft is a compromise that keeps us both happy and on the road together.


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