2008 Western Adventure
Day 15 - July 4, 2008
My main objective for the day was
over Independence Pass,
and into Aspen. I figure that would be
cool, since it's Independence Day. The ride from
Silverthorne to Independence Pass was beautiful, even though it was
the long way around. The short way would have meant riding on
I-70, which to me was not an option. I am so glad that I went
the long way, or I would have missed seeing some great scenery, and
would have miss some great little towns like
Buena Vista, and Granite.
a favorite ski destination and seemed very opulent for a little town
tucked away in the Colorado mountains. They were just getting
ready for their Independence Day parade, and I sensed that I got
through the main street just before they closed it down. Down the
road a bit I started to climb, and the air was getting pretty thin.
Before I knew it I was over 10,000 feet and still climbing.
When I got to the top I was surprised that I was at
Hoosier Pass, which is at 11,539 feet, and is also at the
Continental Divide. There was a school group at the summit and
I took a picture of them at the Hoosier Pass sign. The ride down the other side was just as
beautiful as the ride up. Did I ever tell you that I just love those mountain roads.
By the time I
hit Buena Vista their Independence Day parade was in full swing. We had to wait
for twenty minutes for the parade to finish before we could get
through. That was a good wait though, because I got to see
some of the parade. I also got to meet one of the local
Colorado riders on a Gold Wing that was out for the day with his
daughter. They to were going over Independence Pass, and he
gave me some recommended roads to ride. Unfortunately, some of
them were already behind me, but I noted them for future visits.
The ride up Highway 82 to the pass
is a bikers dream. It had plenty of twisties, and the view was
absolutely stunning. As I approached the summit I was kicking
myself for leaving my jacket at home. The temperature was
dropping fast, but I was so enthralled with the beauty that it was
no big thing. Once at the top it seemed a different world.
At over 12,000 feet I was well above the timberline, and if it
weren't for the beauty of the snow and rock formations, it would
seem quite desolate. At the summit, I met a couple that had two big dogs, one
of which was a Siberian Husky. The Husky seemed extremely happy and
totally in his element.
the ride down from the summit I saw a bunch of people sliding down a
steep hill on their backs. They were acting like they had never
seen snow before. I took a pass, even though it seemed fun.
A little farther down the mountain I saw another biker pulled off
the road on the other side. It turned out to be a woman from
Bavaria. She had always had a dream to ride across the U.S.,
and now that her youngest child had graduated from high school she
decided that now was the time. She flew from Bavaria to
California, rented a motorcycle, and was headed for Miami. She
was so excited about what she had seen so far. I'm sure that
she will have many stories to tell when she returns to Bavaria.
Once off the mountain, your still
at 9,000 feet and I was still having a hard time breathing. My
old lungs aren't what they used to be. I remember
Aspen as being a
quaint little town tucked away in the mountains. Well, it's
still tucked away in the mountains, but it is not longer quaint.
Yes, they have maintained the small village look, but by no means is
it small. The building that has gone on since I was there in
the 70's is phenomenal. Their Independence Day parade had just
finished, and the traffic was horrendous. I had to detour around
most of main street, so I didn't get to see much of it. In
fact it was such a hassle that I didn't get any pictures at all.
There were no places to pull over, and you couldn't even hesitate
without a dozen people blowing their horns. I choose to
remember Aspen as it was in the 70's, because my impression now is
very different. I was actually glad when I finally got clear
of the town. I wished that I had come through Aspen a day
later so I could have explored the town a little more. Maybe I
wouldn't have been as disappointed if I'd seen it under different
Down Hwy 82 a ways is city of
Snow Mass, which is
also a skiers destination. Our two girls had skied there
when they were in their teens, and loved the place. They had
some childhood friends that moved there during the years that it was
just taking off as popular ski resort. Snow Mass has also
grown by leaps and bounds since I was last there, but is still very
beautiful. About 10 or 15 miles from Snow Mass I jumped onto
Hwy 133 South towards
Redstone and Paonia State Park. I followed 133 into
Hotchkiss, where I picked up Hwy 92 South. The scenery
continued to be fantastic and I whttp://parks.state.co.us/Parks/paoniaas
taking in every mile of it. I went by
Park, and then on the outskirts of
Black Canyon Gunnison National
Park and Curecanti National
Recreation Area. What a phenomenal piece of God's creation.
I followed the Gunnison River until it reached the
Blue Mesa Dam,
where 92 intersected with Hwy 50. I got onto Hwy 50 which headed
West, and rode for a number of miles before I reach the town of
Cimarron. They had a nice campground there where, in
retrospect, I should have stayed for the evening, but I thought I
had plenty of daylight and knew that I could make it to
Ouray well before dark.
I went another 15 or 20 miles
before I hit the Hwy 550 South junction at Montrose. Still
lots of daylight, so on I went, through
Park, which was very nice, but forged on towards Ouray.
Finally, I reach Ouray and the town is jam packed with people to
watch the 4th of July fireworks display that evening. I tried
several hotels, but they were all packed, and each of them told me
that all of the hotels and motels were reserved weeks ahead of time.
They suggested that I try
about 20 miles down the road. It was a beautiful ride between
Ouray and Silverton, but I was getting a little apprehensive about
my getting a place to sleep that evening. I was back up to
11,000 feet as I hit
Mountain Pass, and it was starting to get pretty chilly, so
camping out was not an option. My camping gear isn't suitable
for freezing weather, neither is this old body.
I finally roll into Silverton, but
guess what. The have a fireworks display of their own, and all
of the hotels were booked. By now it was getting dusk and my
options were running out. The next sizable city was
Durango, about 70 miles
south and through some pretty nasty mountain roads at night. I
didn't piddle around in Silverton once I knew there was no hope of
lodging, and I headed south in a hurry to make every minute of
daylight count. Hwy 550 is called the Million Dollar Highway,
and for good reason, the scenery is definitely million dollar
scenery. It's too bad that I have to ride much of it in the
dark. By the time I hit 11,000 feet again, it was dark.
I saw lots of deer and other critters on the ride to Durango, and I
actually made good time in the dark. I pulled into a Wendy's
about 9:30pm, ordered some hot chili, and started querying my GPS
for hotels. After calling about 5 hotels, all of which told me
that the town was booked solid, one guy told me that he heard of an
opening at a Comfort Inn in
Cortez, about 50 miles west. He gave me the number of the
hotel, and I called them. They did indeed have one room open,
but it was $130....yikes. I had run out of options, so I
booked it. I finished my chili, hopped on my bike and headed
west. About an hour and a half later, and about a dozen close
calls with deer, I finally made it to the Comfort Inn in Cortez,
Colorado. I hardly remember unpacking my bike and getting into
the room before I passed out. Since I planned to spend the
next day in Cortez visiting the sight in that area, I didn't set my
alarm for an early awakening.