Thanks so much for all the honest advice and recommendations. I'll spend this winter doing more research on the routes suggested by you guys, and more.
I know I have a lot to learn, and I don't mind some risk. In fact my life has become pretty boring since I stopped climbing and scuba diving. I bought this bike hoping to get a little adventure back into my life. So easy to get caught up in work responsibilities and just the drama of normal life. I'm finding riding to be very addictive and seductive. Can't stop thinking about places to ride and new vistas to see.
May I ask another, simpler question......What time of year would be best to ride around Colorado? I was considering the last two weeks of July.
Again, Thanks to all of you.