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Old 03-21-2012, 05:32 PM   #1
N-Id-Jim OP
Studly Adventurer
Joined: May 2009
Location: where elephants roam
Oddometer: 684
The most bitchin ride ever ridden in colorado!

Well OK, That mightbe a bit of a stretch to some, but to me its completely fact. This sneaky guy tried to pull the fast one….not me..

I have hacked out a couple shorter ride reports, in the Day Tripping forum, but this prose is about a fourteen day sojourn so I figure it belongs here in the Ride Report section. So I will toss this in here with the other literary giants that roam these pages. I hope you enjoy this attempt to chronicle the outrageous motorcycle trip that we were lucky enough to be able to commence and complete in two weeks time, with no bad luck, mechanical issues, or any ill consequences to speak of. We had some really nice consequences:

This trip is referred to as the COLORADO trip. The idea for this excursion was conceived in the fall of 2009, and that notion became manifest in history upon our departure from CdA, ID on Saturday the 14th of August 2010. So this is historical too. After months of map study and wrangling over the best travel date opportunities, it was finally time to load the gear on the bikes, air the tires, and thumb the starter buttons.

But first, a little history on how this came to be. My travelling partner Ben ( noted liar above) and I are long time buddies. We go back to the early 90’s when we first met in Lewiston Idaho. I had recently moved to Lewiston from Michigan with a new job as field engineer on a paper mill expansion. Ben had recently moved there from N California. We were, and still are, into bicycle racing, and we became acquainted by attacking each other during hard and spirited group training rides with other local riders, then laughing later about how badly we flogged the shit out of each other. Whether out on road or mountain bikes, these ventures ranged anywhere from 2 to 6 hour rides. So… lots of saddle time is nothing new, and compared to my bicycle, even the crappiest motorcycle saddle seems to me like a luxurious recliner. We have since fairly agreed that two-wheeled travel of any kind, is the best there is. Here is our group on a recent flogging:

Fast-forward almost 20 years…. Over the past few years, together, we have done numerous 3, 4, and 5 day moto trips. We like to camp when we can, and will resort to a flea-bag motel when its appropriate or the weather has just turned totally crappy, Hey, we are both over 50 years old. I don’t mind tent camping, I actually like it, but I am not interested in an extreme cold or wet test of will. Any way, traveling in this manner requires being efficient with your gear in order to not be over burdened with weighty junk, yet one still must possess the amenities necessary to be comfortable and civilized in the campground. We both utilize soft-bag pannier type luggage, and tank, and tail bags. On top of my rear rack goes the tent, pad, and bag. We both carry the usual stuff that campers use on a daily basis, and some dirty clothes, and other essential vice quenching elixirs. We both enjoy the Spartan luxuries, but can be easily tempted by lousy hash-house fare.

Our machinery is not high-zoot. Ben rides a 99 Honda Superhawk 996, and mine is an 08 V-Strom 996. Almost identical engines, but the similarities pretty much stop there. Both bikes have been proven to be decent traveling rigs. We are not racers. We ride in a spirited, but sane manner, and these steeds always get us where we are going. On this route we rode collectively over 10,000 miles. We added no oil to our engines along the way, though both were due for a change at the end. Note that’s 20,000 tire-miles, with no flats either. We keep our tools clean, oiled, and sharp. That’s the key to reliable serviceability, I think. No matter which bike I’m on, I have no patience for standing on the side of the road listening to somebody say: “Oh shit! I guess I should have had that taken care of before I got on the road.” Well Duh!!, But we all know, it takes a little good luck too, I guess. I rooted around for a while to find a good picture of the bikes all kitted up for adventure travel. The one below isn’t from the COLORADO trip, its from an earlier OREGON trip, but it gets the idea across.

Day 1: Our much anticipated day of departure dawned as a perfectly clear North Idaho summer day. After the ritual morning coffee drinking, the usual drama of final packing selections, and a warm goodbye kiss from my G/F,

we made our way out of Coeur d’Alene and headed East over Sherman and 4th of July passes, these would be some of the smallest bumps on our trip, but passes nonetheless. There is nothing extraordinary about riding East out of CdA on I-90 when you’ve been down that road numerous times, but the excitement of starting this trip had me giddy and grinning inside my helmet. We were riding into the first sunny day of the trip. Sorry I was too busy smiling and having fun to take many pictures for part of the day..

After about 32 miles of Interstate slab, our loosely planned route took us 23 miles up the North Fork of the CdA river, which is a nicely paved serpentine NFS highway along a gorgeous stretch of river. The N-fork is as popular with the river floaters as it is with the trout stream rodmen, and there were plenty of both. I prefer the stripped down female floaters myself. On a warm sunny summer day such as this, you get to see plenty. But you have to pay attention to this road too or you will get a Dodge Ram tattoo. At Prichard (tavern) we turn to burn the 18 miles up the hill toward the Thompson Pass summit, which demarks the Idaho – Montana state line. Our third pass today, and first state-line. Its only 9am. From the top, it’s a fun 18 mile ride down to Thompson Falls, MT, which is on the Clark Fork River. Its about 100 miles from CdA to T-Falls, so we are needing to feed that thirsty Superhawk. It sure has a mismatched tank size given its appetite for fuel. Ben carries a spare gallon, and it’s a good thing too, because it comes in handy later.

Out of T-Falls we head East along the Clark Fork river on hwy 200. This is a gorgeous river canyon drive, complete with signage warning motorists of the bighorn sheep often seen in the roadway. See what I mean!

Through Plains and Paradise and Ravalli to Missoula, its another quick 100 miles. Its now getting warm, and its almost noon by Mountain Time. Time to stop at the Big Sky Brewery, we need fuel. After perusing the t-shirt displays in the brewery gift shop, we head across the street to one of the regions largest Harley Davidson dealerships. It appears they are having a weekend event and there are a lot of pirates attending the convention. Interestingly though, right there on the floor next to the oil puddles, are about 8 or 9 of the most spanky Ducatis.. Nice!! Monsters, 1198’s tricked out with Ohlins and titanium, race replicas, lots of cool stuff! I have to really wonder just how many bikes like that can be sold in Missoula..? I feel somewhat ordinary as I putt putt away on my big ugly Strom with stained camping gear lashed on in nomad fashion.

Time to turn it South down hwy 93 toward Lost Trail Pass. But first ya gotta navigate the Saturday afternoon traffic right up the gut of the regions shopping district. Its Saturday, its hot out, and so are all of the regions shoppers. Is lane-splitting legal in Montana?? I dunno, but I’ve seen it done. Apparently though from the local look, head-splitting is legal here, because no helmet is required, we thread our way, and the road is once again ours as we head out of Lolo topped up with petrol. The 60 or so miles from Missoula to Darby on Hwy 93 is hum-drum at best, but you can go pretty fast so it doesn’t take too long. Beyond Darby, the road becomes narrow, winding its way into the Bitterroot National Forest, flanked by ever steeper canyon walls. We find that following the East Fork of the Bitterroot River is a fine moto route. Somewhere near Sula, MT, we stop at a NFS campground / day use area to have a snack, quench our thirst, and listen to the rushing river water.

It is a fine day! The Lost Trail summit is next. At the summit we will cross back into Idaho. This hwy gives us an awesome ride out of the Bitterroot valley over the summit and then bombs down the Idaho side. Once off the steep upper switch-back turns, the road takes on the rhythm of the N Fork of the Salmon River. We blitzkrieg into the town of North Fork. This is where the Salmon River proper turns west into the canyons of the “river of no return” wilderness, but we get to follow the Salmon upstream southward on down to Salmon, Idaho. This is what motorcycle travel is all about!

After a fuel stop in Salmon, we are headed up the Lemhi Valley, along its namesake river. This is a long stretch of distant views, and agricultural flavor. You can make some time on roads like these if you are so inclined. We traversed 10 mile stretches at a whack without seeing so much as a tractor. Though we did yield to an oncoming ambulance type vehicle about 30 miles out of Salmon, about 20 or so miles later we came upon the crash site. It didn’t look good, and it was a long ride, once they scraped you up, to the nearest medical care out in these parts. The fences and ridgelines seem to go on forever along here. I sometimes feel the need to just slap myself, as being lucky enough to live in North Idaho, we sometimes take this stuff for granted.

We powered on to Mud Lake, the first civilized burg since Salmon. Still another 34 clicks to get to Rexburg, ID. Time to grocery up, and motor on down to the Swan Valley where we will camp tonight.. We roll in at dusk, over 500 miles into the program. We meandered two miles up a gravel forest service road in belief of the campground directional signs we saw in the fading light. The sky was perfectly clear and we were paralleling a nice rocky mountain stream, and it just got better all the way to the campground. Quick work was made of setting up tents and unrolling the bags. Simple camp chow and some celebratory spirits in the glow of our headlamps made the perfect nitecap. Night fell, stars blazed in the sky. Amazing at over a mile of elevation. I believe it was Big Elk Creek Camp. I also believe I watched the silhouette of a coyote tiptoe by my tent wall. Wiley is, no doubt, a regular customer in the campground diner.
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Old 03-21-2012, 05:58 PM   #2
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Love that road on both sides of Thompson Pass. I'm in for the duration.
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Old 03-21-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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Bring it on.. Colorado riding is 2 wheeled nirvana.

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Old 03-21-2012, 06:28 PM   #4
N-Id-Jim OP
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Joined: May 2009
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OK!! thanks for the looks and the comments... had to take the dog for a walk..

All of the two lane riding between Idaho and Colorado is fantastic.....

On with the trip......i changed the font. old eyes, you see..

Day 2: A perfect dawn filtered through the tall pines that inhabit this canyon. Ho Hum, another perfect day in paradise. We perform the ritual morning duties, after copious amounts of hot caffinated beverage, load the trusted steeds and putt-putt back down the 2 miles of crunchy gravel to the Hwy 26. We leave the trees for crisp clear sunshine. We turn toward the sun, and Alpine Junction WY. A more patient man might have taken a few more photo opps along this morning ride, but with the weather being what it is, and the roads as perfect as they are, we were just having waaay too much fun to be standing around fumbling with cameras! Our location is just south of Jackson Hole WY, and we are winding along the edge of Palisades Reservoir on the Snake River, where the waters edge meets the canyon wall along a twisty path made for motorcycles. The earthen dam that restrains the mighty Snake here, failed catastrophically not too long ago sweeping up hundreds of homes in its wake. I hope she holds for today.

We cross into Wyoming near Alpine, and turn South toward Freedom. Freedom pretty much straddles the ID – WY line, and is the home of the Freedom Firearm Mfg Company. If I ever need a new hogleg, I’m coming back here for it. Back into Idaho to follow the scenic ID 34 loop around to Soda Springs. This is a pretty out of the way place. You wont find it by passing through, you need to be aiming for it. It would be worth it to take some pics here, but the riding is just too much fun for that kind of time wasting. We power on! From Soda Springs, we burn Hwy 30 through Montpellier, into Wyoming again and down to Cokeville. We are on a mission to make it to Dinosaur CO this afternoon, but first we are going to Green River, WY. We pretty much made a blur of the landscape between Soda Springs and Green river. We are not scofflaws, but… Number one, these roadways beg you to pick up the pace a bit, and the bigness of the wide-open spaces seem to just suck you through. Number two, its Sunday morning and there’s nobody out here competing for our space. The only LEO type we have seen in 700 miles was tending to the car wreck way back up by Ledore. I enjoy the depth of the distraction-free mental zone that I ride in. I promise myself I will take more pictures next time.

The wake-up alarm goes off as the traffic thickens, Wyoming Style, as we approach Green River, WY via Granger, on a short stretch of Interstate 80. We take on fuel in Green River and are pleased to learn that it will be no problem to buy liquor here on Sunday. We plan to camp tonight, and are not taking any chances, so we make a stop for provisions. Utah is the next state, and that place makes us nervous! We find what we need and follow the signs to Hwy 530 and motor South toward the Flaming Gorge. This is OUTRAGEOUS!! The roadway into, through, and out of the gorge is a terrific byway for any motorcyclist. For us the weekend traffic presented its Sunday drivers, but even so, it was great. It’s the kind of road where you might just decide to backtrack and do it all over again.

Shortly after ascending out of the south end of the gorge, we had Vernal UT, and then Dinosaur CO in our crosshairs. The mileage to get there didn’t last long, other than the constant feeding of that Superhawk. The big ugly Strom just gallops along, easily gobbling up 220 miles on a tankfull of regular unleaded. That’s about ten miles per liter for you communist metrics. Not bad for a big heavy pig with a payload of camping gear and booze lashed on. That’s how we roll to Dino-town. On the way here today we rode twice in Idaho, twice in WY, and once each in UT and CO. Whew that’s a lot of state-lineses!

Ben is either happy to be here, or he has his thumb out cux gashawk is dry...

From here it’s a short stretch to the land of fossil mania. Dinosaur CO. is a just a wide spot in the road at a Tee-intersection with a single flashing signal light dangling from a cable.

We were pretty tired by now and we had no intelligence on what amenities may or may not be had in any neighboring town, so we asked the local mini mart clerk where might be the nearest campground. Well as luck would have it, this conversation was overheard by the assistant greens-keeper of the local township park. Carl said: “Hey! I take care of that park right across the street, and you guys can just camp right there. For free. And that little building has toilets and showers too!!” Once again the gods had smiled! We had a green lawn, a picnic shelter with electrical outlets, picnic tables, flush toilets,, and hot showers….for free!

Always remember, though, that when a deal seems too good to be true…??? We didn’t care. We had booze, stogies, sandwiches, and perfect weather. Well, a little later on it turned out the small parking area was the favorite hang out for the local high school kids to conduct their social affairs. They didn’t seem to need any sleep. Also the local cop used the wide spot to monitor the traffic. He got several customers per hour either running the red light or speeding. So take your pick, squealing tires or squealing girls, which is more annoying?? Oh what the hell, its free!
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Old 03-21-2012, 06:41 PM   #5
N-Id-Jim OP
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day 3

Day 3: We headed straight south out of town on the road you see there from the top of the hill in the previous post. Today would be our first day to blast over some BIG passes, COLORADO passes. That was the point of coming here, right? We ditched Dino and headed down CO Rd 139 to Rangely. On the way, I was awestruck with the level of industry that is going on here. A lot of gas and oil development is happening, and tons of heavy equipment at work everywhere. It was only 19 miles from Dinosaur to Rangely, and it would be a gross understatement to say I wish I had driven those miles last night. Near Rangely there are a lot of touristy petroglyph sites to go see, if you are into that sort of thing. But also, this is where the touristy amenities are. It’s all cool though, we are on the Spartan Tour. There are major mountain ranges that lie just South of Rangely. Those are going to wait however, as we turn East on Hwy 64 to chase the White River 55 miles to Meeker,.then another 50 or so on up to the town of Craig.

The quality of these secondary roads is simply amazing. Smooth and sinuous, no traffic, we are gobbling up the miles. Again, the Superhawk needs to be fed. Eastbound on Hwy 40 out of Craig we roll out on this main highway, but only for 20 or so miles, we are watching closely for the County Rd that leads to Oak Creek. We find our turn and we find ourselves riding the Elysian Motorcycle Road! I can’t describe it, it is fantastic. Miles later we blasted over the first BIG one, Gore pass at 9527 feet. The road swooped through glittering stands of Aspens, meadows, and abrupt outcroppings of rock. Did I mention that the road was perfect? Outrageous! The sweet descent brought us back down again to Hwy 40. We turn North for Muddy Pass, and then Rabbit Ears. While Rabbit Ears Pass is over 9400 feet, it is on a major thoroughfare, and there is a lot of traffic, and multiple lanes of it. Hmph, nothing to see here folks. From the West slope of the pass there is a neat view of the valley where Steamboat Springs sits, except when a major thunderstorm is crossing the valley and bearing down on the mountain. While watching the ever nearing lighting strikes, we decide that discretion is the better part of valor and turn tail. Our destination is the Poudre Canyon.

Highway 14 to Walden, intersects Hwy 40 on the Continental Divide near Muddy Pass at about 8500’ and takes a NNE tack across an expansive valley. I’m sure it’s a pretty valley too. The storm was gaining momentum and the wind at its front was creating a wicked crosswind from the west. In a few more minutes we were being pelted by horizontal rain and hail. It became pretty difficult to safely maneuver even in a straight line. There appeared on our right an oil / gas pumping and separation station with a modular trailer type shed. What luck! We were able to wrestle tarps over our bikes, which we parked nose to the wind, or they would have blown over for sure. Even more luck! The trailer was unlocked and warm. We put on our rain gear and waited for this thing to blow itself out a bit. It raged on. We waited over an hour. It finally let up to just a light rain in the breeze, and we fled to Walden. This looked like a nice enough place, but by now the rain had pretty much stopped, the Gashawk had been fueled, and we were ready to press on despite the ominous black clouds ahead of us. We just weren’t wet enough, yet.

It’s only 22 miles from Walden down Hwy 14 to Gould. We were relatively dry for about 7 of those. The rest of the way it was pouring down in a way that made you admire the graceful arc of the water contrail being left by the tires. It was starting to get dark now with the heavy cloud cover blacking out the sky. The fun was starting to fade. We were driving a writhing narrow forested gouge of a road. My mind was thinking about this.. It would be a blast in the sun. Then I saw the Moose Warning sign.

Great! I can visualize the whole gnarly scene of motorcycle vs moose in the woods, in the dark, in the pouring rain.

Fortunately, right after crossing the Michigan River, the next sign I saw was this:

The sign in front of the Drifters Cookhouse said: “Cabins for rent”. That sounds a hell of a lot better than a soggy campsite in the dark. We probably created an ADA violation by parking our bikes under the extension of the porch canopy, but I didn’t see any cops nearby. As it turned out this place has an adequately stocked bar. Ben had Jim Beam, and Jim had Jack Daniels while our gear dripped on the plank floor. When I inquired of the possibility of securing a cabin for the night, the hostess eyed our soaked gear and unflinchingly told me they cost a hundred bucks. I instantly replied: “That sounds just fine”, and ordered another drink. We found the cabin amenities to exceed our expectations by a long shot. We cleaned up, dried out, and went back for a meal in the dining room which was as good as any place in the big city, and way better than most. We tried pretty hard to rescue the economy of Gould that evening, and it was great. Hopefully they appreciated it as much as we did.

Even the humming birds get their fill in Gould. There were about 8 feeders like this on the porch. Opps lost the humming bird pic.. oh well you have probably seen a humming bird feeder before,, there was a bunch of them hanging from the front prch.. and the birds were like little pirahnas..
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Old 03-21-2012, 08:34 PM   #6
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Day 4

Day 4: Gould is actually an East Slope town as the Continental Divide takes a lot of crazy twists and turns. The Michigan River leaves here and flows NW to join the Illinois River and eventually confluences into the North Platte. I think we have now touched or crossed The Divide 3 or 4 times. While this is a great tour of the Big Hills, it is also a very cool inspection of many waterways. This morning the sun is about to rise above the canyon’s crest and warm the day into our first true-blue-sky Colorado day. And we are headed for Trail Ridge this afternoon! First though we are nosing our cycles up the incline of Cameron Pass, 10276’. Our first “tenner”, and it doesn’t take long. The descent lands us along the Poudre River, which is a glorious ride down, into, and through the Poudre Canyon. I believe the Poudre River makes its way into the South Platte. It’s a long way to the Gulf of Mexico from here.

The Poudre on it's way to the Gulf under a bluebird sky.

This is some nice and unspoiled looking countryside. We motor further on down Hwy 14 through this river corridor and keep a sharp eye out for County Road 27 – Stove Prairie Rd. or something like that. Once again we strike it rich in these hills as we rise to the challenge of another Colorado secondary route that it as nice as any we have ridden anywhere, ever. This route will take us thru the little tiny town of Masonville, on the way to the big city of Loveland. Masonville has a neat little outdoor museum which is worth a look. We also took a nice little detour over by Horsetooth Reservoir (we are in john elway country) which was definitely worth the trip. We rolled into Loveland to meet Ben’s cousin, Laurus, who is in the air force, but grew up in Genesee, Idaho. Loveland is a busy place with a big 5 lane road leading in from the west. I think everybody in Loveland is on this road today. We found fuel easily enough, but now we need to find Laurus. He lives a ways east of town, and I am not convinced we will find each another just by chance in this congested place. We pick a diner that looks good and call Laurus, it will be up to him to find us. It is a beautiful day and we are going to have a late breakfast on a picnic table in the shade of an old drive-in canopy. Sweet! Laurus rolls in in a timely fashion with his young daughter in tow, and we have a fine time, and the food was great too. Its about noon, the temperature is around 80, and we are going to head on up into Estes Park to join in a rock and roll band…ha ha! I am shocked at how heavy the hanyak traffic is on Hwy 34, all are headed for the park on a Tuesday afternoon. But here we go, up the Big Thompson River. The RMNP is fantastic, and the Trail Ridge Roadway is very scenic, and the weather is perfect, so I shouldn’t whine. BUT the traffic and the construction does dampen the fun just a little. We didn’t stop til Grand Lake…

Fatso, in Loveland, rolled an old A&W into a nice stopping place.

Nice views in RMNP.

Grand Lake is pretty grand, lots of folks think so.
I don’t remember anything extra super special about the run through the RMNP, but i guess it must have been pretty cool. Milner Pass in the park was our highest point yet at 10758’. So far the motos have performed flawlessly at higher elevations. Though, at motorhome velocity, Milner wasn’t much of a test. Leaving Grand Lake, we picked up the pace, hustling down through Granby and merging on to that dog-gone Hwy 40 again to zip down to Winter Park. MaryJane is the nickname here, it’s a Colorado rocky mountain high, I guess. W/P does look like a fun ski hill though, and we will see a lot of those a little further along in the trip. From here the road begins to tilt seriously upward to the summit of Berthoud Pass. This is the biggest climb yet, with a succession of switchbacks that would make a snake jealous. We topped out at 11,315’ and bombed down the highway til we met I-70. I-70 in this proximity to Denver is a busy place. Fortunately we are only going to run about 8 miles east to Idaho Springs, and turn south, up the county road to the Mt Evans park entrance. This is a brilliant route up a small and narrow canyon. We motored on up to the Echo Lake Campground which must sit at about 10,000’. Even though it is 6pm on a Tuesday, I think we got lucky to score a camp-site within an hour’s drive of Denver in August. We got cozy with the neighbors, two other couples, and had a great time appreciating the quality of life at the moment. Our evenings in camp are not elaborate, we are too lazy for that, but we get by.

Hors‘douvers’ might be made up of seasoned sliced avocado and oysters served over crackers. Happy hour includes complementing cocktails of whiskey or rum drinks. The entrée might consist of chicken and rice with veggies, or spicy chili served on hot grilled tortillas with sour cream, cheese, and onions. And there is always desert.
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Old 03-21-2012, 08:59 PM   #7
N-Id-Jim OP
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Joined: May 2009
Location: where elephants roam
Oddometer: 684
Day 5

Day 5: The top of Mount Evans is first on the list, and we are on the summit before 9am.

Figure 15 A nice day to be an old goat on Mt Evans.

If you have never been there, GO THERE! If you have been there, then you can be jealous of the weather we had. Outrageous!, Glorious!, Unbelievable!… take your pick, or pick them all because that’s what it was. Cameras and verbal prose do not do the job. Sorry. Visibility was unlimited, except by old eyeballs, there was no traffic to speak of. Amazingly enough, I think the number of bicyclists we saw neared the car count. I am a pretty hard-core cyclist, but this is best done by motorized means. It can be brutally cold, wet, and windy here, and it happens on short notice. Look at the ground! Nothing grows here!!. There is a good reason that nothing lives here except piss-licking billy goats.

It is 14,100 feet above sea level. The roadway is narrow and rough, and often the edge of pavement, including the fog line and then some, is raveling off into thin air. It’s not a problem on the ascent, but you look differently at it on the way down..

Once back down the Mt Evans road at campground junction, we turned toward Denver again on the County Rd 103. Even though we were getting a lot closer to Denver than good sense dictated, #103 is nice drive over a couple substantial hills that are nicely covered with aspens. I think we popped out near El-Rancho?? I’m not sure. We flailed around a bit in making our way back to the freeway in order to be on our way toward Loveland Pass. If the traffic isn’t too heavy, even the freeway is a fun ride here! We blasted the slab to up exit #216! It’s a good sign when the chairlift goes right over the road you are riding. Things are looking up.

Since anything considered to be hazardous material cannot be transported by truck thru the Eisenhower Tunnel (probably a good idea), and Hwy 6 over Loveland Pass is the only alternative, it makes for a well maintained route. We wasted no time getting to the front of the line to enjoy the route to the 11,990’ pass. The downward spiral is just as fun, and we find ourselves admiring Arapahoe Basin, and Keystone ski hills on the way into Dillon. My how Dillon has grown since I was here last, in about 1979. A lot of people must really like it here. If this is the “off season”, then it must be nuts when the skiers are here in force. We fuel the bikes, fill the grocery sacks with lunch, and blow out of town.

Twelve miles of I-70 separate Dillon from the exit to Hwy 91, which leads to Leadville and some serious high country. As soon as we turn off the freeway, we are going to Climax! Climax CO is perched just south of the Fremont Pass summit of 11,318’ on the Continental Divide. It’s a wreck of an old mining town with a few hulking rusty artifacts lying about the side of the road. Sort of like a weird war memorial, except only mountainsides were killed in these battles. We power on to Leadville where we find a pleasant city park to enjoy our sandwiches in. The townsfolk of Leadville have done a better than average job of creating a really attractive, colorful, and historic looking core business district. The place is packed cheek by jowl with tourists that may be looking to fill the same. We are full, there’s no place to park, and we are not really wearing walking shoes so we head south, and the tach needles swing north. Just a ways down the pike we find our selves in the headwater region of the Arkansas River, which we follow for a bit. I guess things have to start somewhere, and its logical that rivers start near the Continental Divide. Duh!

Some pretty cool motorcycling routes start near the divide too. For example: the next right turn will take us up to 12,093’ Independence Pass on Hwy 82 toward Aspen. Blinker on!

Leadville, and the road to Independence

The Outrageous view!
The road to the top started out skirting an alpine lake and climbing through a broad meadowed canyon, then jutted upward via well-spaced switchbacks to the visitor center. We decided to drop most of the way down the Aspen side just so we could pull a u-turn and do it all over again. It was not boring! A few of the passing cars screamed with Aspen style by flashing their Italian badges, and hissing snarly exhaust notes. We didn’t invade their neighborhood, we climbed back to the visitors center to snap a few pictures. Do you still “snap” pictures with a digital Kodak? Regardless of how fun the ride is, this one is worth the stop, and the short walk to the viewpoint. We remount the cycles and relive the journey back down to Hwy 24. The next stop, after 23 more miles of the Arkansas River origins, will be Buena Vista. With ranges of mountains on either side of the river valley that have numerous 14000 foot peaks, the name makes a lot of sense, the views are stunning. We are so fortunate to have the clear and warm weather.

It is so nice and warm when we roll into Buena Vista that we decide the best place to refuel is the local downtown tavern. Unfortunately I can’t recall the name proper, but it is old school. Its mid afternoon so the patrons are few, but they are friendly and eager to offer advice. Our next town on the map is Crested Butte, but that is pretty much straight over the mountains from here, as the crow flies. The beers are icy cold so we are not really in a big hurry. We had eyed a route on the map over Cottonwood Pass, but the indication was the road turns to gravel at the summit, and might stay that way for a bit. Gravel road cruising at 12,100’ might be just fine on a loaded down sport touring motorcycle, or not. So we felt that caution may be advised here. We got some mixed reviews, however it seemed this is a well traveled and maintained route. How bad could it be?

The road up the creek past Cottonwood Lake is guarded on the North by 14,196’ Mt Yale, and on the South by Mt Princeton at 14,197. It was stunning in the afternoon sun as we motored through hill sides gladed with aspens and cottonwoods. I think BV lies at about 8000’ so we elevated over 4000’ on the way to the pass, and I think we passed maybe three cars on the way. This was one of the 4 best roads that we rode in Colorado, and I would hate to try to pick the top one, because so many were so good. The promised aggregate surface awaited us soon after crossing the county line at the summit. I have no idea what we were so worried about. The big fat Strom gobbled up the dirty miles with aplomb. I didn’t ask to test ride the Superhawk on this stretch, but the chore was done with no real complaints. We found pavement again at Taylor Park Reservoir. That too is a fine road. We drifted down the Taylor River to the Lottis Creek Campground, which is a nice USFS facility that offered up clean water and vault toilets. I could write another whole story just to tell about the camp hosts we met and enjoyed along the way on this wayfare. We performed all of the requisite camp activities as might be expected, and had another glorious night under the starry alpine sky. This is the fifth night out, and I am starting to really unwind. It is amazing how well you sleep without the daily-grind induced monkey-brain insomnia.

The Taylor River near Lottis Creek.
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Old 03-21-2012, 09:15 PM   #8
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Day 6

Day 6: Morning came with the pitter pat of heavy dew, or some might call it light rain. It rained off and on over night, but nothing to make a guy start building a boat. We had our morning coffee, and the drizzle subsided enough that we pretty much got packed up in the dry. Cool and gray here at about 9000’ or so. We are warm and dry as we begin the first leg of the day into Crested Butte. On the way there the sky got pretty dark, and the humidity got pretty high. We got pretty wet and by the time we got there, needed a good hideout.
Safe at last!

We found a great breakfast diner and got caught up on cell phone communications for an hour or so. There’s not much to see here when the clouds are on the rooftops, and Crested Butte is what I would call a tee-shirt-town.

We were soon on our way to Gunnison. Gunnison appears to be an economic center, probably where everybody in the region goes to shop, or get something fixed. We shop for gas, and haul ass East on hwy 50. We are keeping a wary watch on the sky as the thunderheads are gathering and rolling through, causing some violent air currents. Monarch Pass is our intended route, but we also have a contingency plan to go South, over North Pass pending the storm’s heading. We pick the southerly line, up the Cochetopa River, and down the less traveled Hwy 114. This is a bitchin moto road! We fly up and over North Pass, again crossing The Divide, and then zoom down the East slope to pick up the Saguache River and drive on down to it’s namesake city. Along the route we not only dodged most all the rain drops, but we watched the storm envelope the Monarch Pass Mtns to the north. We thought about the four dudes we saw on Harleys soldiering on on Hwy 50 when we turned south. Bummer. We later heard the hail was pretty harsh. We steered south to Del Norte, and then west to South Fork. It is pretty cool to see signs such as “Headwaters of the Rio Grande”. You just don’t think about it until you are here, and thinking about it.

From South Fork, I was itching to ride Wolf Creek Pass, but the lightning up there was flashing a warning that even I could heed. We turned for Lake City. As it turns out, Alice lives there.

We didn’t go in, but this place was cool! And it was really cool getting here on Hwy 149 from South Fork. We rode up the Rio Grande River til it was no more, just a swampy headwaters in the shadow of 13,176’ Pole Creek Mtn. From there we blasted over Spring Creek (the Divide again) and Shumgullion passes to get here. It was another 70miles of moto bliss. With 55 more miles in front of us to get back to Gunnison it was necessary to feed that Gashawk again. I expected to see Goober in the Lake City filling station,

but he had the day off. The Lake Fork canyon north of Lake City is worth the trip to see. It is a tightly twisting vertical walled river duct. The water writhes and boils though here. Spring run-off must be spectacular. At the end of the canyon the road and river part ways, and you get to climb a short and sharp twisty hill then drop down again to the crossing of the Cebolla River. Amazing! You get to see East and West flowing waterways just miles apart. After a long sweeping climb up to a high plateau, we see we are in a race to Gunnison with a very dark looking storm front off to the West. The Strom and the Superhawk make for pretty decent touring bikes, and they are not too slouchy either. But if you had one, on this stretch of 149 you could use all the legs of a Concourse, we tried our best! I think we passed three cars in about 25 miles, and that includes both directions. We started to pick up a pretty heavy crosswind as we slanted across the high open prairie and the lightning was flashing that warning light again. The waves on the reservoir had turned to dark gray chop with a white froth on the caps, and debris was skittering every which way. We had a fast tailwind back into Gunnison and we parked the bikes with nose into the wind and tarped them down.

.Let ‘er rip! Timing is everything, and now is a great time for a cold-one in warm honky-tonk! After the storm blows itself out we venture out to find a great dinner and a cheap motel room. As luck would have it, our motel neighbors were a group of H-D riders from Kansas City. We all enjoyed a boisterous evening with lawn chairs circled in the parking lot.
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Old 03-21-2012, 09:56 PM   #9
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Day 7

Day 7: We awoke to a slight headache for some reason. After some coffee and bidding farewell to our friends from Kansas, we were off to find a laundromatt and a hearty breakfast. More of this, only different.

With the chores done we were ready to make a vapor trail, and set a course for the North side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. If you take this path on a day such as this you are going to say: “WOW!” A lot… We spent a bit of time hiking around to some of the better view points taking some pictures and trying to appreciate the grandeur. It would be easy to spend a couple days just poking around this canyon and maybe taking the guided riverboat tour to see the view from the bottom up. Some of the better pics:

We continued our tour through Mahre and Crawford, to Hotchkiss. We saw this along the way..

So far we haven’t traveled a road where we weren’t grinning inside our helmets, and the trend continues. From Hotchkiss we turn NE toward Carbondale onto Hwy 133.

We have no intention of going further than the McClure Pass summit on this spur, but changed that notion and ambled into the hippy town of Marble. Marble is at the base of the Maroon Belles range of mountains and Aspen sits just on the other side. I have skied in them thar hills.

Ho hum, a bunch more Fourteeners in the beautiful Colorado sunshine. “Awesome” doesn’t cut it. We backtrack to Hotchkiss and continue on over to Delta. I have done some reading on the Grand Mesa area and it is on the must-do list. Hwy 65 out of Delta is the path we take from here.

The map does not indicate there would be any unique geographical features along 65. What a sweet surprise we get as the road begins to climb through the Aspen forest. Its Friday afternoon and there is nobody here! We ascend through the forests into the big sky that envelops the Grand Mesa plateau. The road to Grand Mesa can be seen threading through the Aspens for miles.

The Grand Mesa Campsite

Grand Mesa in da moonlight!

Another perfect campsite at well over 10,000’ elevation. With no development or clouds for miles around the sky was crazy with stars. What a perfect place to take a break from the road. This was at the Island Lake Campground. I would highly recommend this one since it is a short ride from the highway on a well graded road, and the campsite amenities are excellent. We were very lucky as we had no prior knowledge of any of the camps we stopped at along our way. We just stumbled upon whatever we found. So far we have not wanted for much. It has pretty much been a perfect week. OUTRAGEOUS!!

Week Two to be continued….
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Old 03-21-2012, 10:07 PM   #10
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Good pics

Too many words for me to read, but good pics. Is that one bike an Ape?

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Old 03-22-2012, 06:45 AM   #11
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Looks like a fine time was had by all!

looks like a great adventure. I've got a trip to Colorado on the agenda for this summer and Mt Evans is one of the
places on my list. Will be looking at your route and see what other locations I can include in my plans.
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Old 03-22-2012, 07:24 AM   #12
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same here, plan to get to CO and possibly that sturgis area this summer, sans the sturgis event itself. Awesome pictures love the report guys. My planning has started and hope to pull this off solo this year. Some GREAT info here for my travels. Being in Fl, my travels have been limited to NC. Thanks a bunch. keep up the good work.

Most likely none of those spanky Ducati's will ever see the mileage the VeeStrom does.

Future ten screwed with this post 03-22-2012 at 07:33 AM
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Old 03-22-2012, 08:42 AM   #13
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Great Ride and Report.
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Old 03-22-2012, 09:14 AM   #14
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巡航利器DL-1000 VTR-1000
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Old 03-22-2012, 01:14 PM   #15
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Great RR so far

What's the pistol for.....?

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Kamloops , BC

Baja '05 , Baja 06/07 , Baja 08/09 , BC Alpine Single Track

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