The snow finally melted in the low lands of Colorado, so 3 friends and I decided to take a weekend ride to the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado from Denver for the weekend. Our plans were to leave at 5:30 pm on Friday Evening and Camp out two nights with a return trip home on Sunday. Traveling in early May is a little tricky because the sun sets quicker than expected. After a few hours on the road, we arrived in Wray, Colorado as the sun set and by the time we got to our campground it was already dark. We used our cycle’s headlights for some artificial light and set up camp at a great little place just outside the city limits. Once our tents were set up, we hit the road in search of dinner and found a great burger place to eat. When we arrived at the restaurant, a stranger on a cycle followed us into the restaurant’s parking lot. We chatted for a bit and invited him to eat with us. We began our first meal of our trip meeting a total stranger and he joined us for a great meal. He rode a 2015 Kawasaki Verses and open carried a 9mm Berretta on his left hip (“Open Carry” means he carried a gun unconcealed in a holster). This guy was either going to kill us or be a really nice guy; luckily he ended up being just another motor head who loved talking motorcycles.
Riding through the prairie is not for everyone. Some folks just don’t understand the wonders of such places. Adrenaline junkies will miss the excitement of the curvy roads through the mountains and others will just think the Great Plains lacks a diverse scenery. There is nothing wrong with such opinions; beauty is a matter of perspective. The prairie provides a place where the simplicity of the environment enhances the micro elements of everyday sights. The colors of the sky seem more vibrant and enriched. The contrast between the grass, road and horizon is acute beyond detail. The way that the grass blows from side to side almost mimics “the wave” one might see at a baseball game. The visual aspects of the Great Plains lacks the shock and awe value of a colossal mountain landscape or sandy ocean beach but if you open your mind to its mystic charm, you will find a wondrous environment to enjoy.
On Saturday Morning we got up early and broke down camp. We only had two objectives to achieve. Our goal was to ride to both the Sand Creak Massacre Monument and the Grenada Japanese Relocation Camp both in South Eastern Colorado. Riding south from Wray Colorado, we arrived at Sand Creek Massacre Monument around noon. The road to the monument off the state highway is an 8 mile hard pack dirt road. If you take it slow, this road is safe enough to travel. The monument is run by the National Park Service and it worth its weight in historical gold. We learned the terrible history of this place, where more than 220 Native Americans (mostly women, elderly and children) were slaughtered by members of the US Army. The mood of the park was eerie and somber as if a cloak of sadness surrounds the hollowed grounds. As a veteran of the US Army, I listened and learned of this terrible event in deep sadness and wondered how individuals could do such terrible things.
The next stop was the Grenada Japanese Relocation Camp where America forcibly relocated more than 7,500 Japanese Americans during World War 2. This site is surely worth a visit. The roads throughout the old internment camp are made of loose dirt soil and motorcyclist should consider walking the area and parking their cycles at the entrance. I am not proud of the history of this place but its story serves to remind us that we can do better as a society to prevent bigotry and racism so this type of behavior will never happens again. The buildings in the camp were torn down after World War 2 but the foundation still exist. A recreation of the camp’s water tower, barracks and guard tower have been built so visitors can better understand the life of the Japanese American Citizens in the internment camp. During our visit at the camp we saw a wild-fire seem to originate out of nowhere. It was the strangest event. As we explored the ruins of an old guard tower we noticed a small amount of smoke drifting from the ground about 100 yards outside the boarders of the camp. Within one minute the trickle of smoke turned to something more daunting and we noticed a small flame in the open field. We called 911 and reported the situation immediately. By the time we left the park, there were more than 3 fire trucks working the fire. I believe the fire ignited in the county landfill that lies adjacent to the Internment Camp. This was just another random odd situation that we witnessed during our trip
After learning about such ugly times in my country’s history, my mind really went a drift during our ride to our tent site. Both parks were thought-provoking entities that every American should visit. We as a society need to learn of these events and visit these places, in hopes that we as a culture will never be doomed to repeat such actions. If these ugly events can take place in Eastern Colorado, the same type of situations can play out anywhere in America. We as a society can and must do better and should be made aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men.
I would be amiss if I did not at least mention the phenomenal small towns that dot the landscape of Eastern Colorado. There is just something eccentric and right about these places. The people are friendly and polite. These are the type of places that make one feel welcome as soon as you arrive. I always thought that small town America always represented what the term home should be.
Our motorcycling trip through Eastern Colorado ended up being a historical trek for knowledge which made the trip even more impressive. The trip was also organized around a simplistic plan without a ton of complications. We traveled without a detailed agenda nor plan of route. Only armed with a sleeping bags, tents and wet weather gear, we hit the road heading east towards the Great Plains. Our goal was to see a few historical sites and sleep under the stars for a few nights of motorcycling bliss. Eastern Colorado is part of the Great Plains and is rural beyond measure. This part of the country has escaped modern inconveniences that tend to overwhelm us. Traffic is non-existent, life feels slower and the environment is defined by a vast wide open sky that lasts as far as the eye can see. Riding through the plains is not filled with twisty roads or gnarly sloping cliffs. One must head 4 hours west towards the mountains for that type of scenery but there is a certain amount of majestic bliss that one feels while riding through the open vast scenic landscape. The trip is highlighted by never-ending open skies and vast fields. It’s this environment that provides a mystic key to one’s mind and allows profound freedom of thought. The panoramic view of never endings prairie grass is a wonder to observe. Take a chance on places you have never seen, you never know what interesting things you can find.