Recently, my buddy Steve rode out to CO from KY for a four-day motorcycle trip through CO, NM, AZ, and NM (Oct 9-12). The total mileage for the trip was around 1450 miles (naturally Steve put on tons of other miles just getting out here, and then back home). I thought it was worth writing the trip up.
Our target for the day was Montrose, CO via Hwy 285 and Hwy 50. We took off around 9:00am, and accessed Hwy 285 from Conifer, CO, which we reached via "High Grade Road" (a hoot). Hwy 285 was pretty and uneventful -- we didn't stop for any pictures.
Lunch was in Buena Vista (pronounced Byoona Vista), after which we rode up to Twin Lakes (great scenery -- I've written about it before), and up Independence Pass. From the pass, we doubled back to Buena Vista and continued south on 285/24, then west on Hwy 50. This part of the ride was all new to me, and was really beautiful. There weren't many aspen, but there were plenty of mountain ash trees, in full color, to entertain. Along Hwy 50 we crossed Monarch Pass, and rode through Gunnison.
Just past Gunnison begins the Blue Mesa Reservoir, a huge man-made lake that stretches for miles along the highway. Unfortunately, we were in this area as the sun was very low on the horizon, so riding west was a bit sketchy. We stopped across from the Dillon Pinnacles until the sun went down. This, of course, made for a dark and cold ride into Montrose, where we stayed at a quite crappy Days Inn for $35 (worth every penny). After unloading the bikes, we ate at a (too) nice (for us, given our road-wearied look) restaurant called the Glen Eyre.
Day Two's route was to take us to Farmington, NM in order to set up for Day Three's ride through Monument Valley. The route to Farmington included the west side of the "San Juan Skyway" scenic loop (Highways 62 and 145), including a short stop in Telluride, continued on to Cortez, CO, and then westward on Hwy 160 to Durango, and then southward to Farmington.
I have to say that the San Juan Skyway route lives up to its reputation for beauty. I only wish we could have done the whole route. Many stands of Aspen were still in full color, and the mountains seemed close enough to touch. It was so picturesque that photography was frustrating. I'd stop for a minute in one spot, then take off again only to want to stop a minute or so later. We'd never have left the area if I'd have stopped as much as I wanted to.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our lunch stop. We stopped at what seems to be about the only going business in Rico, CO -- the Rico Hotel Mountain Lodge. There we met some really nice dogs, and grabbed a first-class lunch of Reubens with home fries and onion rings.
The end of Day Two was probably our most trying experience. We made good time into Farmington, and so decided to push on to Shiprock, although we'd been watching a lightning show from that direction as we rode toward Farmington. Just as we were heading out of Farmington toward Shiprock it started to rain, and the wind picked up. We took cover under a flea-market stall and put on our rain suits, then continued on to Farmington in a drizzle. Unfortunately the drizzle was just enough to coat the road with gooey crap that was very hard to see through when plastered onto a face shield, and again we were riding into the sun. We had a particularly close call as we rounded a shady corner into full-on, low, sunlight, and I nearly rode up Steve's rear fender.
Despite the conditions, we made it into Shiprock unscathed, and started scanning for hotels. Our scanning proved fruitless, so we pulled into a Subway on the far side of town to ask where the hotels were. Turns out, Shiprock has no hotels. Can you believe it? A town of 8000 with no hotels. Despondent, we headed back for a wet (and now dark) ride to Farmington. As a bonus, I discovered that my face shield was covered with fine scratches from wiping off road goo with the squeegee-clad finger of my rain gloves (gee, thanks FirstGear). We did get a decent hotel in Farmington (after a few false moves), and got a great meal at another hotel across the street.
Aspens along Hwy 145, Day Two [more pix]
Today was our big trip through Monument Valley. However, to get there, we had to ride deep into northern Arizona (Kayenta, to be exact), and head north. The ride across northern NM and AZ was nothing to write home about, really. Both states have prettier areas, and the roads were pretty crappy. Also, the wind was kicking up pretty hard out of the south, and that was kind of tiring. We reached Kayenta around lunchtime. To my surprise, we had great pizza in Kayenta (Pizza Edge, check it out). From Kayenta we headed north into Monument Valley, then onwards into UT toward Moab. Regrettably, I didn't get any pictures in Monument Valley, though I did make a couple of (failed) attempts at from-the-saddle photography.
In Moab, we made a fairly long stop to goof around on some slickrock and take some photos. Then we got some gas and continued up to Arches National Park. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was getting late, and we didn't think it would be wise to ride out of Moab in darkness. So, we headed out of Moab on 128, which follows the Green River through a beautiful canyon. This was probably my second favorite part of the whole trip, with a great twisty road and scenery almost as good as Arches.
Unfortunately, as we exited the canyon it was twilight and we still had many miles to go to reach I-70. On the way up to I-70, we rode through Cisco, UT, which we thought might be a good place to hole up for the night. Turned out, it would be great -- if you were a ghost! Cisco, at night is a spooky little ghost town with decrepit, twisted buildings, and
lights on posts in what seem to be odd places way off the road. It kind of gave me chills riding through it, and it wasn't just because it was freaking cold by then, either.
Just before hopping onto I-70, we added our rainsuits to help block out the cold. Once on I-70, we had a pitch-dark, high-speed run into Grand Junction, where we holed up in a nice Wyndham hotel, and got good food at a local brewpub.
Slickrock, Moab UT, Day Three [more pix]
Day Four took us southward from Grand Junction, through Delta, and back into Montrose to rejoin Hwy 50. My main recollection of most of this ride is that of being really freaking cold. My second recollection is that of being worried about running out of gas between Montrose and Gunnison, since my gas light started glowing just outside Montrose. We pushed ahead anyway, hoping for a fuel stop somewhere along the way. After a couple of false stops, we happened on a small station in Cimmaron, CO, where I got my only picture(s) of the day. At this station, Steve grabbed a squeegee out of a pail of water in order to clean his face shield, and pulled out a thick circle of ice with the squeegee. That's how cold it was.
We continued on to Gunnison, where we stopped to warm up in a convenience store. I managed to burn the back of my throat with hot chocolate, but it didn't matter much to me, because I'd snagged the last filled, chocolate-covered donut from the day-old bin (although it was filled with jelly instead of creme, which just ain't right). We chatted for quite a while with a nice couple from Iowa riding a GoldWing, and headed toward the Grand Canyon, then headed back out toward Canon City.
The descent into Canyon City was pretty cool -- almost as cool as the canyon ride out of Moab. One of the great things about it is that it got warmer the closer we got to Canyon City. By the time we got there, I couldn't wait to get out of my cold-weather gear. I'm guessing it was close to 80 degrees at this point. We grabbed a couple of Jalapeno-dogs at a convenience store and headed back out toward Hwy 115 to Colorado Springs. Once through CO Spgs, we exited in Monument, and came into Littleton via 105 and 85 (Santa Fe). We arrived at my house around 4:00, satisfied with the trip, but glad to be home.