2008 Western Adventure


Day 15 - July 4, 2008

My main objective for the day was to go 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 Breckenridge, Blue River, Alma, Fairplay, Buena Vista, and Granite. 

Breckenridge is 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. 

On 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 circumstances. 

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 Crawford State 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 Ridgeway State 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 Silverton, that's 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 Red 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.




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