Warren
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Colorado Motorcycle Tour Part Two

“Better than mountains are only mountains you have not seen yet” – old Russian saying.

Rested after a day off I continue to explore the mountains of Colorado.

Day 7

Today I make my way north from Colorado Springs on ‘good motorcycle roads’ all day. A site that was helpful in planning this tour is Motorcycle Colorado by Ken Bingenheimer. A treasure chest of local information.

It’s a beautiful day, summer here but quite cool and fresh like a clear Spring Australian morning.

Easy flowing nice forest roads to begin. Look at that sky! So happy to be here and riding a motorcycle.

My ride starts today at 1800 metres and I do not need to climb much before I am already at 2500 metres. High as some alps in Japan or Europe.

Enjoying some sweeping curves I missed a turn and did not notice, but this took me somewhere interesting. A viewpoint that overlooks Fairplay Colorado which is also South Park. Yes that South Park.

The Guzzi effect (mentioned in part one) did it’s thing while parked here and soon I am in conversation with a guy about the bike and he picks up I am off my course which I had not noticed yet then gives me heaps of route info for the best motorcycle roads. So nice.

Beautiful country roads then I tackle a steep climb up the Guanella Pass old mate at the lookout had told me about.

Of course it is hard to capture mountain pass roads without drones which I very nearly purchased recently but they are not allowed so many national parks I am riding here. I’ll stick to my existing format but am still looking for best on bike camera.

Pine trees and snow capped peaks at every turn on the way down. Then some mountain goats which stopped traffic and I took advantage of the temporary stunned drivers to slip in front and get a car free carve of the corners rest of the descent. Woot!

After lunch I started on the Peak to Peak road. This is one of the most enjoyable roads I have ridden, anywhere. It has many flowing corners with long consistent radius. This delivers that most elusive thing – long gravity defying corner hang time. Corners you drop into and then do not have to correct speed or lean angle you just let the bike trace a perfect line through a curve that goes on and on. Only a rider knows this feeling. I literally yell out loud inside my helmet, “Hell Yeah!” or more explicit sometimes depending on the joy level.

And then there is the scenery. What a road!

I had time up my sleeve so explored some side roads at random and found this gem. Quite some view.

After this I rode another superb road. Route 7 that runs down from the mountains to Denver. More of those long hang time corners and some nice change of direction too then it enters a canyon with fast flowing rocky stream at your side. It’s some bitchin’ bitumen!

Now all that was impossible for me to photo despite trying so I did a run back up took a break below and again with time on my hands my mind and feeling at ease I made this artistic photo with the stones for you the reader. Yeah ok I’ll stick to my day job of shooting landscapes ha-ha.

On the way to my hotel I spy a muffler man. It has been changed to be a pitch fork man but no doubt its one of the collection. I became aware of these via a moto blogger I follow Fuzzy Galore who has posted rides to the ones on the east coast. (p.s. her site is difficult to reach now days for some reason only seems to allow USA IP to access)

Day 8

Today I am riding over the very high passes, part of the Rocky mountains. Well that is the plan… It is a nice easy ride from my hotel to Estes Park, the mountains ahead are calling me.

I start my way west into the Rocky Mountains and there is a entry gate. I think no problem I have my national parks pass but am told I need a reservation. Huh? I just want to ride over the mountain not camp or fish? Nope there is no access (to what is a state main road) without a reservation.

I take a break to think it over. Nothing I can do except retrace my route from yesterday. A look back at where I was supposed to be going.

My disappointment soon fades as I am riding the superb Peak to Peak road again and I am rewarded with an almost car free ride through all the perfect radius corners this road has. Maybe things happen for a reason. Woohoo.

Back in Idaho Springs over lunch I decide to ride Mount Evans which stands 4300 metres. In planning this tour there are only so many mountains I could fit in and cut this one but now I have a chance to ride it.

It is a terrific road up about half way where I stop at another national parks gate. Well you would not believe it but again I am asked do I have a reservation. Why? its just a road and there are bugger all people here. Nope I am again told no entry without a reservation.

Oh well it is a superb view here and was a great ride up, I’m not unhappy with this and head back to carve a few more corners on the Guzzi which handles great for a big ADV bike. Anakee III tyres seem good also.

Back on the interstate I detour off to take route 6, possibly ‘the old road’ over the pass while the freeway below goes through a tunnel.

“You take the low road and I’ll take the high road” I think someone once sung.

“Very Nice” two thumbs up – as Borat would have said.

The ride down the other side was long and scenic, you can see it above stretching out.

I am staying in Leadville tonight and in a hostel (albeit with a private room) as I could not afford any hotel in this town. Hotels on this tour, the cheapest in every town, range from $70US to $120US (double that for Australian $ roughly) which is already expensive, but this town I could not find a regular hotel under $200US. Need one of the Japanese hotel chains to come over here and ‘disrupt the market’.

As it turned out I had a great night chatting to fellow travelers and drinking too much wine. Maybe I should do this more often.

The route below is inaccurate. If you ride here make sure you book entry to those two national parks roads in advance.

Day 9

I wake to 2 degrees and rain. Ok back to bed. Leadville at almost 3000m altitude is pretty cold even in summer.

I dawdle with the hikers I chatted to last night, we are both delaying going outside. I bite the bullet and fit my rain liners and thermal liners and don the one thermal shirt I brought with me and my winter neck gator. It’s warmed to 9 degrees and eased to drizzle, nothing I’ve not ridden many times in Japan but not in this untested riding gear.

The gear seems to work well. I’m warm and keeping dry on the bike, but then a miracle happens. The rain stops 30km out of town and the skies turn blue.

The rooms in the hostel were named after mountains. My room was Mount Elbert. That is Mount Elbert and that is blue sky – thank you mother nature.

From an already lofty elevation I climb Independence Pass to around 3700m.

Looking back down the valley I just rode through which was very twisty road following the river before it climbs higher.

“This is it folks, over the top” as Doc once said.

Happy to have my thermal liners in here, lots of snow. Merlin gear handles cold ok.

I rode on to Aspen. Pretty town. Lots of private jets. Then I rode on to Carbondale where it was much warmer and I took out my liners and enjoyed a picnic lunch, the first proper one this tour which made me realise how much I enjoy having peaceful time out like this.

Colorado has so many fantastic mountain views and passes. Here I am just about to climb another pass.

Below is perhaps my favourite photo of the ride. Looking at the road winding through the lush valley with views of beautiful snow capped mountains.

This is motorcycling Colorado!

Thank you weather gods for an incredible run of blue skies. Now I start my way out of the mountains.

The scenery transitions rapidly to dryer warmer land with fruits and grapes.

Then I drop completely back into the deserts.

Day 10

I am at the edge of Colorado but am back to the land of canyons. I start today visiting an area called the Colorado National Monument.

The climb up from Grand Junction is scenic and fun.

Then you ride along the edge of this canyon with many incredible views along the way.

This road twists and turns as it hugs the rim of this huge canyon for 25km. It is incredible.

I think I like this more than the Grand Canyon. So many different views and superb riding as well.

Then the road to Moab takes me through another incredible landscape. A canyon ride followed by a valley that rivals the more well known Monument valley.

And it’s not all straight like below, the road follows the river in many places and is nice and curvy just not easy to photo as this.

It’s scorching hot in Moab so I scratch plans for a picnic and take shelter inside a Wendy’s. Australia you’re not missing anything before this chain opens downunder.

I was going to look at the Arches national park if time allowed and it does however there is a queue a few km long to enter and it’s 40 degrees. I cannot sit on the bike in my riding gear in the sun for that long.

I make my way tentatively to the Dead Horse Point national park with the hope that it will not have such a long queue and am in luck.

It is quite a view. Again hard to capture the scale but I hope this photo gives you a little idea. Amazing landscapes in this country.

There used to be a saying “Everything is bigger in the USA” when I was young, have not heard it recently, the beer cans sure are at 710ml.

I have been in Utah for most of today and tonight am in a town that is nothing more than a couple of gas stations but that’s fine because the journey is the destination.

Day 11

Making my way south west now I ride through another beautiful canyon with excellent sweeping road that hugs the river.

Then I am riding through a landscape that could be some post apocalyptic movie set.

Following this I am back in another canyon with monument valley type rock formations. It’s superb scenery. Overwhelming actually.

Then just when I think well I will probably just have a boring run rest of day I find myself back in green pine trees on a high mountain road. Not just any road either, route 12 Utah is an “All American Road” which makes its a special scenic byway. And a damn nice motorcycle ride.

I’m learning (slowly) and pull off another nice picnic lunch at the ranger rest area on route 12. The ranger is a biker and the Guzzi does it’s magnet thing then hearing I am Australian he insists I sign the visitor book and place a pin on his map of world travelers. I get a heap of local bike road info that I wish I had time to act on. People here are super friendly to me every interaction. That has elevated the USA experience for me to something very special.

All this I am looking out over while riding though green high lands with patches snow and a superb hotmix mountain pass. All American Road indeed you are route number 12, indeed you are.

I was going to finish today at Bryce Canyon but was foiled again by long queues and high heat. Never mind I think I have seen my fair share of canyons at this point and still had red canyon (above) to ride through to round out the day.

Day 12

A beautiful ride this morning over high roads from Panguitch to Cedar creek.

Quite high, 3200 metres here. Still snow on the side of road in places. I failed to really capture it as happens on some roads.

The descent was nice flowing curves. I pulled over to wait for a clear run and did ok! The lower section then enters a canyon which has the unfortunate luck in this ride of following the canyon superstars of the last couple days but I still enjoyed the curves.

Joining the freeway at about 1700 metres altitude the temperature was already climbing. I stopped to set my riding gear to warm mode and pondered taking the back roads into Vegas then checked the forecast and saw it was already 40 there and going to climb in the afternoon. Ok, fastest way back it is.

I made sure to stop a few times to rehydrate at gas stations. Huge pick ups or Tesla’s. Polar opposite views like USA politics I guess.

I did not play the machines at the gas station but took advantage of the seating in cold air-conditioning to rehydrate with sports drinks as it hit 44 degrees and was a furnace outside.

You know it is hot when you cannot open your visor because the air hitting you is literally cooking your skin. A girl at gas station said oh no you are riding in this, its 119F outside.

Anyway nothing an Aussie from the north cannot handle. I joined the fast crowd in the passing lane and was travelling at “some miles per hour” as Clarkson used to say on Top Gear. Then I got lucky on the highways in Vegas and despite vague ramp guidance from my Garmin got it right and arrived back at Euro Cycle Las Vegas before afternoon temps peaked.

I am staying in the Fremont district this time. Much more interesting than the strip.

Well this has been simply an awesome ride. Every day was great weather. Every day had enjoyable roads and superb scenery – much better than my photos can show you and lots of tasty curves every day even if I did not post many ‘road photos’ per se.

USA is not cheap but a great destination. Everything is easy; rental, navigation, hotels, food. People are very friendly. Anyone can do this, including you. And you could extend this to a three week tour easy by adding on California and Oregon which are overflowing with great riding roads (see my previous ride there)

I’m not leaving USA yet. Next up I will fly to East Coast for another moto tour. Talk to you again then.

8 Comments

  1. Terrie Hudzietz

    So glad you had such great weather and views to finish your vacation on the west side of the US. I agree that Fairmont is so much better than the strip in Vegas. Can’t wait to read about your ride on the east side. BE SAFE!

  2. A very enjoyable read Warren. The scenery in the US is jaw drop stunning. I don’t think there is anywhere really equal to it elsewhere in the world. Back in 2009 I spent three months driving a big loop from NY out to the west coast and back. In those days there wasn’t so much info on the internet but while in NY in a bookshop I found a National Geographic guide to the most scenic roads in America. I basically created my loop by joining all the roads together! I was absolutely blown away by the landscapes. I was lucky with my timing in retrospect as the AUD-USD exchange rate was very favourable back then at almost parity. It was also after the GFC so prices were low and no crowds anywhere except Yosemite. I was paying around $30-50 a night in motels and my Mustang rental was $580 a month. I wouldn’t be able to afford to replicate a trip like this now as the USA which had always been relatively cheap seems to have become relatively pricey. Like you I found another highlight of travel in the USA was the Americans themselves who were extremely hospitable and helpful.

    I found it interesting that you are thinking about a drone. Although drone footage can be very impressive my reservation with it having watched numerous vlogs using them is that it gives a misleading impression of places as we are not birds so we never in real life actually see those views. I really enjoy the way your blog features high quality photos that show the actual views that a rider would see (subject to the obvious limitations of a camera). I am looking forward to following the eastern leg of your trip.

    • Hi Tim, that would have been a great trip.
      I wish I had travelled more in USA sooner. Prices were much cheaper on my earlier ride there for everything even with exchange rate fluctuation.
      Your thoughts about a drone are basically why I do not have one, the images then would not be what I saw. The exception would be a drone could sometimes be able to capture how curvy a road is from above the trees. The image of Gilles Highway from a drone on my best Australia roads archive is a good example.
      However it is a lot of time to stop and get out a drone and fly around looking for the right shot. The relaxed pace of my touring I think would be lost if trying to fit that in at various locations each day.
      I am only seeking to please myself with my rides and posts to this blog so I’ll probably never get a drone.

      • Yes it is difficult to capture the curves. My friends just have to take my word for it! How much effort goes into documenting a trip is a difficult trade off. I always consciously prioritised enjoying the moment over keeping a record. I have regretted this sometimes though so have tried to reach a balance by making time for photos. One thing that has made this vastly easier is the development of much better mobile phone cameras. They are always to hand, easy to use and unobtrusive. I suspect the software flatters the photos I take somewhat but the results are still satisfying as a record.

        • Hi Tim,

          Yes I agree and prioritize enjoying the ride. I try to allow more time to stop but many roads are simply impossible to capture anyway.
          I no longer carry a dedicated camera, phones are so good now. I do have a small lens only camera for taking photos while riding, it’s sheer luck if anything comes out right using it and I may go back to a 360 camera for on the bike. I had two Ricoh Theta cameras and this trip have been wishing I had not sold them but those sort of shots are passe now with every Youtuber using 360 cameras (I still find their videos boring ha-ha)

  3. Another great read and ride. A place (like so many others) we鈥檇 like to ride.
    We鈥檝e concluded that our best way of capturing the ride moments are snapping clips from the GOPro. I like the drone stuff, but it does mean a bit of wasted time, so it鈥檚 good for a short ride.

    • Thanks David,

      Yes I might look again at the GoPro’s. The one I had some time ago defaulted to video when turned on and was awkward to switch to photo mode.
      My little Casio lens only camera is close to an idea onboard camera just a little more resolution for cropping would be nice.

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