So it all started with this site, reading everyones RRs and dreaming about riding the high country in one of the most picturesque states in the country. Living in the panhandle of FL, I knew that it was going to be a trek to get out to Aspen and see my brother-in-law (Matt) and make this trip happen with bike in tow. I ride all the time down here in Flatistan and sometimes upwards of 60-70 miles with the fastburners (as we call them) on fire roads, jeep trails, and random singletrack through the woods that has a lot of S A N D. So you can see that I was excited to try something different and when Matt said that we were going to do about 40-50 miles per day for 3 days, I thought to myself that I wanted more than that and really wanted to get the experience of the Rockies ..more on that later. Left Pensacola at about 1400 on a Tuesday and began driving to a dream that is now becoming reality. During my travel and during my many breaks, I stopped in Hammond, LA for gas and what an experience that was (wish I had the camera available for this one). The first thing that happened, I witnessed a guy filling his truck up and then multiple gas containers while smoking a cigarette, and then when I came out of the bathroom, the parking lot was filled with 18 police cars and 5 police officers wrestling 2 individuals down to the ground after a fun filled car chase!! Onward I go, back on the road, I continue driving into the night and figure I probably need to stop so Im not so assed out by the time I get to Aspen the following day, but Im not tired. I pull over at a rest stop, jump into the back of my pickup camper shell, just north of Dallas/Ft. Worth to try and get some shut eye, but its just not working .to much adrenaline pumping through my body .so after about an hour and a half of just tossing and turning, Im back on the road. Scenery starts to change a little and my excitement level begins to build. I recalculate my arrival time and realize that Im going to be there earlier than expected and I just press on! I arrive in the state CO and it just gets that much more beautiful around every turn! Twin Lakes (prior to Independence Pass) I arrive at Independence Pass and I know that Im virtually there now and just have to get over the pass. Coming from the flat lands of FL to this scenery, changes your whole perspective on riding and my mood level went through the roof with all the jaw dropping views. Independence Pass Finally make it to Aspen to meet up with Matt, 29 hours later of straight driving with the hour and a half of stopping at the rest stop. Never really felt tired the whole way, probably due to me being so excited to finally do this trip! Got the bike rejetted at White Knuckle Garage in Basalt, CO (good people there, ask for Gabe if you ever go there) and the we went did a shakedown ride on some famous CO singletrack on Basalt mountain. A little popping on the deceleration, and we decide to richen her up and shes good to go. Never really knew how much the altitude robs the power of the bike, but at sea level my 530EXC will do roll on 3rd and 4th gear wheelies, at about 7K feet, I could barely clutch up 3rd gear. In reality, it felt like about 1/3 of the power disappeared and second gear up at altitude was like a weak 3rd gear at sea level. Back at the house, we start getting all our gear together and begin loading up the truck for our departure the following morning. Next morning arrives and we are off. Pick up Mike at his house, head to the pumps to fill up and then into Aspen to unload at our starting point. At the pumps filling up, one plated and two not ..Matt and Mike were going to roll the dice with popo! The bikes involved: 09 530EXC, 10 350SX-F, and a 07 WR450F. The usual suspects for this trip, dont have any individual pics, but this will suffice. Matt on the left, myself (Ian/MItrnsplnt), and Mike a.k.a Bernie on the right. This is a pic of us standing up Taylor lake. We depart the drop-off point and cruise right through downtown Aspen (rolling the dice) and head straight up and over Aspen ski mountain, utilizing the snow cat roads to get to the peak. Never knew something like that was possible, but it seems to be norm around there. Many hikers, mountain bikers, and DSers doing the same exact thing. We get to the top of Aspen mtn and stop at Richmond Pass to take some pics. Continuing on, the scenery resembles something out of a National Geographic magazine or a post card that you would see in an airport. This is somewhere between Richmond Pass and Taylor Pass, forgot the exact name. I now begin to know why the Rocky Mountains are called as such, there are rocks everywhere!! From going wide open throttle 3rd, 4th, 5th gear in FL on the sandy trails to crawling 1st and 2nd gear up in CO, the riding is completely different. Up to Taylor Pass, we were moving at a pretty good clip, due to not hitting any singletrack yet and just utilizing the fire/jeep trails. If the single track was anything like it was on shakedown ride on Basalt mountain, then I think I would be alright. We make it to Taylor Pass after a washout and wreck (didnt get to it quick enough to take a pic) but do have it on video, and the pass (our scenic vista) is just gorgeous. Seems to be a place that many people go to on their side-by-sides, ATVs, and bikes. We descend down from Taylor Pass and begin to hit some of the infamous CO singletrack to begin our way over to Star Pass. Now is where things start to heat up and the riding becomes a little more challenging. Really steep drops one side of the singletrack and straight-up ascents on the other side. Big boulders, baby heads (small size rocks), logs, and anything else that can jump out at you to knock you off. At one point, I lost the front wheel and then the back and began sliding down the side. Luckily Mike was behind me and helped me pull my bike back up the hill onto the trail. Here are some stills that I extracted from the video to give you guys an idea. Poor quality/resolution, but you get the idea. Here we are at Star Pass. From tight wooded singletrack to wide open hill climbing singletrack, we leave Star Pass and head to Crystal Peak. Want to talk about hill climbs and gnarly terrain/riding .we ascend this hill climb to get to the top of Crystal Peak, and now Im starting to get a little nervous and push the boundaries of my riding. Lets just say adrenaline was now taking over!!! Here are a few more stills from the video that I extracted. Cresting Crystal Peak and its straight down on both sides. Then we get to this little doosey, that Matt and Mike had a hard time climbing the first time up. Thats Matt just before the top, stuck Mike already tried once .the pic doesnt do it justice and its really steep, and one bad get-off and you are going for a ride down into the valley on the right. Matt wanted to go around down into the valley, but Mike wants to try again. Now its my turn, my heart is pumping and I know that I have to try it at least once. I luckily make it on my first shot, just barely, but do get up. I park the bike and decide to go to where Matt is in the previous pic to help out. Matt comes back up, hits a boulder, launches the bike and himself, I assist in the get-off with a lack luster body catch and Matt gets over. Mikeys turn, with a couple of stumbles and stalls, he makes it over like a champ and we are off. Here we are at Crystal Pass. The singletrack on the right is what we just climbed from the other side and descended down to get where we are now. We take a break, eat some power bars, drink some water and decide what our next plan of attack is. We decide to descend down into the valley for some more singletrack and hit Reno Divide Trail, Block and Tackle, and Double Top as we head to Crested Butte. Coming down Reno Divide Trail, we saw some singletrack that was going to take us back to Block and Tackle which we elected to do. Matt decided he wanted to eat some dirt again because he didnt get enough early on and took his handlebars into his chest and went down a small ravine to only be stopped by mound of dirt and rocks. Didnt have the camera rolling for that one either. But as we continued to ride, I noticed Matt wasnt in his full single track attack mode and was doing things unlike him. I told him to pull over and take a break to rest and this was probably my favorite spot to pull off, looking down onto Crested Butte. Matt regains consciousness and his 5th wind and as we begin to ride again, I lose all my energy and realize Ive hit a wall of exhaustion. The altitude has finally taken a toll on my body and Im grinding to a halt quick. I tell the boys, lets find some easier stuff (fire roads/jeep trails) and head to Crested Butte. We look at the map and find what we think is a jeep trail. I was telling Matt that it was this way, he was saying no its this way and what do we get, a barely ridden brand new singletrack that ends up being the end all say all double or triple diamond of trails (in difficulty that is) and Im just cooked. I probably kissed the dirt about 3 times just on that one trail and cursed Matt to the high heaven, but in the end knew it would be a good story over beers later. We finally make to our rental in Crested Butte, after about 50 miles of the most treacherous, brutal, beautiful, adrenaline driven riding that I have ever done. Remember I said that I wanted more ..but 50 miles was more than enough for me that day. Victory, beers soon to be in hand! End of Day 1!!!! Day 2 We ended up going out that night and enjoyed Crested Butte to the fullest. If you havent ever been there, Crested Butte still looks like a town from the 1800s and there should be cowboys on their horses cruising down the street. Many old old bars still kept in their original look to preserve a little bit of history. We talked to many locals that night, to try and determine a route for day 2. We ended up taking Slate River Rd out of town up to Paradise Basin to Emerald Lake on Schofield Pass to rt 317 which followed Crystal Canyon over to Marble where we had lunch. Coming over from Aspen was absolutely awesome, but theres something to be said about the scenery around the Crested Butte area. Everything is so much grander, more majestic, and the colors are so dramatic. Crystal Mill Random Lake in the mountains after Crystal Mill. Rolling into Marble, CO was a nice break. Not much to the town with a real small population, one road in, one road out, and in conjunction with having no gas there!!! The owner of our rental said that there was gas there for sure and when we arrive, our waitress confirmed that the nearest gas station was in Carbondale, CO (about 60 miles roundtrip). After eating at a nice BBQ joint in Marble, our waitress told us that there was a jeep tour place just down the road that might sell us some gas to get back to Crested Butte. As we roll into the Jeep tour place, we find that its also a gift shop for the marble that they extract out of the mountain. We also find that in front of the shop is this marble structure that has many humorous carvings in the one piece of marble. I plead with the old lady behind the counter and after about 10 minutes of giving her our sob story and just needing to get back to Crested Butte and needing about 1.5 gallons of gas total, she agrees to sell it to us. I ended up giving her $10.00 for the gallon and a half of gas and for her time and troubles. That little bit of extra fuel allowed us to do a well worth bypass around the way we came in to ride up and through Lead King Basin, which was one of the funnest and most picturesque routes that we did. The jeep trail was super smooth (lack of rocks), kind of sandy and soft and had many whoops to jump, with vantage points to stop and take pics at. Here are few from there: At the end of Lead King Basin, we eventually met back up with our original route back to Crested Butte and stopped at Devils Punchbowl to take a break and help some travelers that cracked their tranny case on their side-by-side. Luckily we had some puddy (similar to JB weld) that stopped the oil leak and which was able to get them on their way. Devils Punch Bowl The water was freezing cold and very refreshing as it was mostly snow melt coming down the canyon from high above. The whole time during the CO trip, I couldnt figure out why I was always nauseated and had a headache (more to come on that one). As we were coming back over Schofield Pass and past Paradise Basin we stopped to take these pictures. Coming over the pass and past Paradise Basin, we quickly learned why it was named as such. Disclaimer: hopefully no one (CO locals) shuns me on this site for revealing this, but at the top of Paradise Basin, there is a small lake with about 10 or so campgrounds looking down into the canyons that you see above (about 3-4k ft down) that is probably some of best and most picturesque camping that I have ever seen. Makes me want to bring the wife back next year and do a longer trip and take her there just for the experience. Coming down from the pass, there was a river in the bottom of the canyon that also had numerous campsites that would probably blow most campsites out of the water due to the scenery and surroundings. Mike and I even noticed a pretty girl laying nude on one of the rock bars (kind of like a sandbar) with her dog. Nice little gift to the end of another long day of riding. 48.5 miles that day, not as grueling as the day before, but still beating the hell out of us with all the baby heads everywhere. Day 3 We wake up to overcast skies and rain in our presence. We pack everything up, get our bag ready to be shipped back to Aspen, and clean our rental. We sent a bag with some clothes and our toiletries ahead of time, so we wouldnt have to carry them on the bike. Getting ready to go, we head to the local gas station and some people stop us to ask us where we are heading and about our trip. Then a local had us support his petition to stop the closure of trails in CO and the Crested Butte area by going to his Facebook site Gunnison Valley O.H.V Alliance of Trailriders (The GOATs). I guess there are a lot of people in CO that believe that we (as DSers) are ruining mother nature and not treading lightly, when in actuality I never saw trash anywhere along the trails or anything out of place that could have been misconstrued as not treading lightly. There are many efforts (DSing activists) currently in CO that are trying to preserve what they have, so if you see them, please support them in their fight to enjoy CO as they have been for so many years already. We elect to take Brush Creek Rd out of Crested Butte to head to Pearl Pass and then back over to Aspen. The day was a little colder, overcast, and we were all pretty tired from the previous 2 days. We eventually find our trail and get on our way. Enroute we see some other detours and decide not to take them, due to the difficulty level and how we were feeling. About an hour into our trip, we stop to take a break and I wander off to the side of the trail to take a piss and I notice all these little holes in the ground. Curious as to what they are, I keep looking and then all of a sudden hundreds of spiders come crawling out of these holes ..HOLY SHIT I hate spiders. So I ended up just pissing on the trail and we got out of there. Mike decided not to get a rolling start and dug himself a hole on the trail .. We keep climbing and climbing up singletrack to Pearl Pass and I tweak my back halfway through the ride. Now Im hurting, cant stand up straight and get to Pearl Pass where the views are just immense, 360 all the way around. If you look in the distance on the pics from Pearl Pass, there is singletrack everywhere, going down into the valley, up and over the peaks, this place is just amazing to ride. I tell Mike and Matt, lets take an easy way back to Aspen, but the only way down is the infamous Slippery Trail. Not sure if thats the official name of it, but thats what Matt and Mike called it. It went straight down the side of the mountain with multiple spots just on the outside of the singletrack where it was about 1-4,000 feet down. At this point, I knew I wasnt 100% and at the limits of my riding. Mike also says that that there is one spot that is really treacherous and its a rock slide that we have to cross. Slippery Trail seems to be our demise as we only tire more, but the views just keep on coming. You really dont realize how awesome the riding is here until you come and experience it for yourself. You can read all the ride reports you want, but actually doing it for yourself is what makes it last. In a lot of these pics from the last day, you can just see the exhaustion in our faces. We finally get back and over Richmond Pass and Aspen mountain, to head down into the valley. We decide that beers are in order and park the bikes on the street of Aspen and head to the Red Onion for some drinks. We were dirty, smelly, and looked like hell, but it tasted so good when the beer hit your lips. The glances that we were getting from passer byers was pretty comical. 3 rounds and a plate of nachos later, we hop back on the bikes to get back to the truck and load up. As soon as we get there, it begins to rain on us. The whole trip, the weather was perfect, so in a way it was a nice ending to our trip. The trip in essence was the best motorcycle trip that I have ever done. We finished with about another 50 miles on day 3 and that was probably about all that I could have done. Going back to the nausea and headaches, well I typed in symptoms for altitude sickness in the computer and it came back with: nausea, headaches, sleep interruption, and vomiting. I had 3 of the 4, but was able to get through it except for the constant feeling of nausea. The following day I also went and visited the local chiropractor to get adjusted, my back was really tweaked, but worth every penny. He also said that there are different pills/homeopathic minerals that you can take to combat the feelings of altitude sickness. Couple of things that I did realize, is that you really test the limits of your gear and figure out what works and what doesnt. Skidplate = check (a necessity). Heavy duty tubes = well worth the money. Radiator guards = would have been nice but didnt have them, bent one a little. Front and rear brake protectors = a def. nice thing to have. Lots of rocks out there!! I put a 34 minute video together of the whole trip, with a pretty good soundtrack. If anyone is interested, just PM me and Ill send you a copy. The only thing I ask is a few bucks ($5 total) for the DVD and shipping and handling, and its off to you. If you have any questions about the trip, let me know. THE END!