For day 7 of our motorcycle tour of Colorado we were joined by Craig who was from New York and he asked if he could join us for that particular day and the three of us had a blast!
From the start we had great motorcycling roads, the first being the ride from Aspen over Independence Pass – it was beautiful with the road climbing to 12,000 ft. We had a photo stop at the top of the pass and were joined by some others from the tour group and an inpromptu press up session was undertaken to see who could hack it at that altitude and on the Continental divide at that……
The three of us set off after the headrush of exercise! and headed towards Buena Vista which certainly lives upto its name. We rode through stunning scenery before joining some 65 miles of tarmac which were made for motorcyclists. Our climb over Monarch Pass was just awesome, huge open sweepies and very little traffic. After the ascent to just over 11,000 ft we started to drop into valleys and vast open plains wth remote ranches dotted on the horizon.
We arrived in Gunnison in time for lunch where we were able to sit outside enjoying a “pulled pork” hot sandwich with barbeque sauce – delicious! This set us up for an amazing stretch of road – 100 miles of open roads, mountains and canyons along The Silver Thread highway which followed the Rio Grande.
Mid afternoon we pulled into the town of Creede for a refreshing drink of lemonade at Kips Grill. Creede used to be known as the roughest mining town in Colorado!! fortunately for us times have changed and we had a great welcome.
We left Creede to head for Pagosa Springs and more fantastic motorcycling roads through Wolf Creek, arriving at our hotel late afternoon to be welcomed by the aroma from the hot sulphur springs which were at our resort. Just what you need after a day on the motorbike – a hot soak before dinner!
Great to have met the rest of the group last night who will be on this 12 day motorcycle tour of Colorado, Utah and Arizona. The tour has been organised by a great guy called Frank who we met in 2008 on a tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Frank runs FCMotoTours – well worth taking a look at if you happen to be over in America and looking for some great motorcycling roads to ride.
Even though we were with an organised tour group we were free to ride at our own pace and used the planned routes which Frank had provided to us. Quite a few were out on the open roads as early as 7.30am – not us!! We left around an hour later but that still gave us plenty of time to take in all of the 280 miles we had to look forward to that day.
We left Grand Junction to ride over the Grand Mesa – it is the largest flat top mountain in the world and from the valley approach it just appears as a solid barren rock rising high above you, very striking. But as with so many things – looks can be deceiving and as we rode the 50 or so miles across this mountain top we were able to experience a very lush green landscape with huge sweeping roads and spectacular views.
Wonderful motorcycling roads atop the Grand Mesa
We dropped into Delta and fuelled up where Geraint got talking to a couple of police officers, one on his Kawasaki Concours (as they are known in America) – GTR1400 being the more familiar reference in the UK for this motorbike.
Having compared notes on riding police motorbikes in America and the UK, we got back onto the road and picked up the West Elk Loop before riding the North Rim of the Black Canyon – another great road although a “warning” for motorcyclists!!! ….. Chipmunks
:-D they seem to have something of a deathwish and would run across the road right in front of you, interesting to say the least!
We had a fab picnic that day overlooking Morrow Point Lake and even had a couple of cheeky little chipmunks join us trying to pinch some of our lunch! The temperatures started to rise and so after a great ride down to Paonia we had a fab ice cream to cool us down and prepare us for riding over the McClure Pass towards Carbondale and finally onto our hotel for the evening in Aspen. Most of the group were there having a cooling beer and after a quick shower and change we joined them as we all went out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner – good food and company.
Another fab day of motorcycle touring
This was the day we would be joining up with 20+ others for the organised part of our motorcycle tour which would take us through other parts of Colorado, into Utah and Arizona for the following 12 days.
We woke to some rain but it didn’t last and certainly did not hamper our day. We picked up the interstate for around 40 miles and what a fantastic section of road it was…… The Interstate went through the White River National forest and flowed through rocks and cliffs with the Colorado river and the railway running parallel. It was a joy to ride through this canyon and was probably one of the best sections of motorway we have ridden on to date. (Drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know which you think are excellent stretches of motorway).
Our destination for this day was Grand Junction with our route taking us over the McClure Pass which rises to over 9,000 ft. It’s a pretty route offering tiny places to stop at such as Redstone where we had coffee from the general store – we also had some of our cinnamon bun purchased from the Brass Ass Saloon in Leadville on day 4
:-) whilst we sat by the riverside admiring the red rockstone appearing through the pine trees.
We continued our ride over McClure Pass and onto Delta and towards Grand Junction, but on the outskirts of the city we turned off the main highway and went into the Colorado National Monument park whch is 23 miles of truly jaw dropping canyons and rock formations. To us it was like riding the rim of the Grand Canyon only everything was closer somehow! The rock colour was red with fantastic wind sculpturing on the rocks.
The National Monument itself is a rock pillar formation which has the American flag flying on top of it – a climbers paradise apparently but quite how they get to the top we are not sure!
It was a fabulous section of road to motorcycle on, very little traffic and so much to see – well worth the $10 entrance fee. We would have spent longer in the park had it not been for the thunderstorm gathering around us and we were extremely lucky to pull the bikes up infront of our hotel for the night just as the first clap of thunder came in! Timing when riding a motorbike is everything!!!!
Got to meet the rest of the tour group over dinner and really looking forward to the next 12 days.
The storm from the evening below had blown through thankfully and we woke to brilliant blue skies and decided for an early breakfast to make the most of the day. Were out on the motorbikes just after 7.30am and headed off to ride some of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway and over the Tennessee Pass which had stunning scenery and open, flowing motorcycling roads.
We arrived at a town called Leadville which is an odd name given that it is in fact an old silver mining town!?
We had coffee at the “Brass Ass Saloon” and ordered what turned out to be the biggest cinnamon bun we had ever seen!! It only cost us $4 and ended up lasting over 3 coffee stops in total……
:-D If you ever get that way we can highly recommend these – will keep any motorcyclist going for several hours!
could this be the largest cinnamon bun ??
On leaving Leadville we headed towards Buena Vista on highway 24 through massive plateaus with ranches scattered in amongst high mountains – one of the tallest ones we saw was Mount Princeton at 14,916 ft, we looked like two small dots riding along that stretch of road that’s for sure. All was going well as we turned east towards Fairplay only to encounter a huge storm gathering ahead of us and we quickly decided that retreat was the best plan!
Would you ride into this?!
There are occasions when you are on any motorcycle tour that going back the way you came is the only option and so we retraced our way to Leadville although it was such a great riding road we didn’t mind and scenery always looks so different. We came back to our hotel in Edwards on the I70 freeway as the rain clouds were gathering and the temperature had dropped. It was a stunning section of motorway that’s for sure climbing to around 10,000 ft at one point and offered great views of the Vail valley.
Not so many miles ridden on this particular day but it was packed with great roads, scenery and interesting people along the way – roll on the rest of the tour.
As if drinking with bison on Day 1 was not enough, we encountered this sign when we sat out on the terrace at our hotel for breakfast….. kind of focuses the mind when you are about to set off on your motorbike!
We had a beautiful morning for riding, temps in the low 70’s and blue skies to accompany us as we rode to Empire which is home to The Original Hard Rock Cafe – fab coffee and cinnamon buns set us up nicely thank you. Fully refreshed we rode over Berthoud Pass the opposite way to Day 2 and what a fantastic motorcycling road it is too. We then took advantage of our pass for the Rocky Mountains National Park and had a great ride upto the high point of the trail ridge – pretty windy up there but worth it for the fantastic views as you can see from the photo below:-
These blue skies stayed with us for our ride towards Granby and out of the park, but for the next hour or so we had a bad thunderstorm kicking off, fortunately always to our left – as any motorcyclist will appreciate thunder and lightning are never great for riding through!
We headed over Gore Pass which was a road tipped to us by Tom and Marnie who we had met at the foot of Mount Evans on Day 2 and it lived upto expectations – quiet stretch of road with flowing bends and hardly anyother traffic. We joined route 134 and onto Edwards where we were staying for the next couple of nights. Riding those last 60 miles was interesting as we had brilliant blue skies to our front and black storm clouds to our rear all the way. Got our hotel and we just had time to shower and order our first drink in the bar when an enormous storm came rolling through with torrential rain. When the other folk in the bar realised we were from the UK they cheered us for bringing the rain with us!!!! They had been desperate for wet weather as Colorado had been experiencing some terrible wildfires and this storm gave the residents from Edwards some hope.
As a footnote… – whilst we are always happy to oblige!! we could not take the credit for the storm in Edwards and were rather hoping that it was the last one we would see over the next couple of weeks of motorcycle touring!!
Following on from our previous post about our motorcycle tour of Colorado & Utah in July 2012 where we had dodged our first thunderstorm and drunk beer with a bison……! We had a good nights’ rest and woke up to the 4th of July and joined many Americans enjoying their holiday by riding Mount Evans which is the highest paved road in North America at 14,260 ft and the stretch of road is 14 miles which present some awesome views as well as giving any motorcyclist a thrilling ride and with road signs like this one below you know you are going to have some fun on the road….
what more could a motorcyclist want?
After a great ride to the top and back we stopped to buy a souvenir sticker and met Tom and Marnie in the car park. They were local to the area and both ride motorcycles enjoying the roads as much as we were. They very kindly gave us some tips on roads we should be checking out whilst on our tour and promptly gave us a map made by Butler Maps which are specifically for motorcyclists. The maps are fully researched and grade the type of roads for you – well worth checking out if you are riding in America, we certainly put the map to good use and thank Tom and Marnie for the gift.
Before we left, the motorbike below pulled up into the car park……. we’ve heard of carrying a spare tyre before now, but an exhaust??? It had actually fallen off on his way to Mount Evans – guess he was one lucky Harley owner……
We left Mount Evans and headed to the Peak to Peak scenic byway, it was a stunning road which followed a river for a large part of the way. We passed through Casino city which is a purpose built gambling town in the middle of nowhere! Think Las Vegas but smaller (a lot smaller….
;-)). After a picnic near Estes Park we headed to the Rocky Mountain National park – $20 entrance fee but that was valid for a week and was worth spending as the views were stunning.
We returned via Berthoud pass which has large sweeping bends some of them with switchbacks – excellent for motorcycling thats for sure. Rounded the day off with a mexican meal – ready to see what the next day would bring, and we’ll write about that next time.
In July 2012, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary we flew to America for 17 days of motorcycle touring around Colorado and Utah with a short excursion into Arizona for good measure. We had the best of times on the tour riding fantastic motorcycling roads, seeing amazing scenery on each and every day and meeting wonderful people along the way. We’d like to share our experiences with you in this blog and hope to “whet your appetite” for motorcycling not only in America but anywhere you choose to go……
Technically day 1 was the flight over there but this was the usual scenario i.e. check in at airport – board plane – eat, drink, watch films – leave plane – go to hotel, sleep and we kind of thought you would not be too interested in this bit
So we’ll start this post with Day 1 being the day we picked up the motorbikes from EagleRider at Denver. Beautiful hot sunny day greeted us and in no time we were at the rental place sorting out the paperwork and packing the panniers on the 2 BMW GS’ we were to be riding for the following couple of weeks. Once packed it took us a little while to negotiate our way out of Denver – it seemed every stop light was on red for us and with temps rising to the high 30’s it was time to hit the open road!
We picked up the freeway first before heading off towards Lariot’s Loop which is around 20 miles of flowing road through a small canyon with enough twists and turns to bring a smile to any motorcyclists face
:-D We decided it was time for a coffee and headed towards the town of Evergreen arriving at a petrol station just in the nick of time as a thunderstorm erupted around us and within 5 minutes the forecourt was flooded – thankfully we were sheltering under the fuel station canopy…….not so lucky the Harley rider who came in a few minutes after us and he was soaked to the skin (still smiling though!!)
Dodging a storm in Evergreen
As we found over the following few days, the storms in Colorado disappear as quickly as they come and before you know it you are back riding on a dry open road feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your backs. It then makes a cool beer at the end of the day all the more welcoming and on this our first day Jan got to drink her’s with an interesting companion…..(we don’t get too many bison in the UK!!!!!!)
Will let you know about day 2 and beyond in our next posting –
Beer with a Bison!