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Old 06-19-2013, 09:12 AM   #1
jahwerx OP
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Cool2 11-Day mountain tour of NM/CO June 1-14 2013





First, I want to thank the ADV community for the gracious and helpful planning suggestions that went into this 11-day trip. Without the perspective of folks that have done this riding, it would not have been nearly as interesting and successful.

By way of introduction to riding the West, my friend Patrick and I (and his fiancée at the time) did a sport-touring trip 16 years ago also starting from NM… back when MY fiancée lived in Albuquerque. We touched the corner of Colorado, spent a lot of time in the national parks of UT, AZ, and CA, then spent a few days in LA. We rode the PCH up to the bay area to visit with some friends, then “Iron butted” it back to NJ over 2.5 days.

Fast forward to 2013, and we are both married and have 2 kids each. My cousin announced he was getting married on June 15th in Moutainair, NM, south of Tijeras, where he and his future wife currently live. I called up Patrick and said, “Hey, let’s ride out to NM, taking a south-eastern route hitting the Smokies, New Orleans, etc.” I was going to take my ’73 Norton Commando, and Pat was going to take a yet-to-be-purchased sport-tourer. Over some weeks of thinking it over and watching a lot of epic youtube videos, pouring over ADV ride reports and generally searching the interwebs, the plan morphed into “Let’s have a lot more fun going off-roading in the Rockies”. Neither of us have ANY off-roading experience, but we have some disposable income, accrued vacation time, and SERIOUSLY AWESOME wives for letting us do this. As I like to say “what could possibly go wrong?” It turns out with all the planning we did, very, very little.

So we have the dates locked, a general “plan” of what we want to do, but no bikes or any other gear. We decide to get the same bikes to minimize carrying spares and sharing “tribal knowledge”. I find a local shop that has 4 used KLR’s for sale. I pick up 2 ‘09’s that each have ~3k miles – not even broken in! For the price of one new bike, we got 2. Check.

We easily spend as much in gear, armor and supplies as we do on the bikes, and I invest many hours on getting the bikes adventure ready. I did the majority of the wrenching, but Pat came over a couple weekends to do the doohickey mod and I made sure he installed the 606’s so if we flatted in the field, we would both know exactly what to do in case of that. I’ll enclose a full packing list in this thread. We wanted for NOTHING other than less mass in the field.

Departure day arrives (Midnight: Saturday June 1), we have all our gear packed, and the bikes loaded up in the bed of my F350. I can’t say enough good things about this truck. It’s the full crew cab with 8’ bed – so pretty darn long. We threw the dry bags in the bed with the bikes, and used the rear bench as a “sleeper cab”. We dubbed it “the nest”. We alternated driving and sleeping and made it from NJ to NM in 36 hours. An unendorsed recommendation for Ford: the 6.7 Diesel pulls like a train and gets 17.5 MPG on the highway while cruising at 80-85 MPH. Its as comfortable as a limo (with the only exception of some concrete road junctions… thump-thump, thump-thump).

I’ll break up the rest of the ride report into individual “replies” (1 per day) in the following format below:

Day X
Screen shot of the Day (as attachment)
Starting Point:
Destination:
Lodging:
Distance Traveled (mi):
Ascent (ft.):
Descent (ft.):
Approximate % Off-road:
My Arbitrary Rating: (1 to 10)
Difficulty:
Topo Map track overview (as attachment)
Daily GPX File “corrected” (I’ve stripped out wait times, or missed turns, etc. but this is the REAL DEAL – not planned – these tracks are RIDABLE)
Comments/Highlights:

Other notes:
=> For the most part, we had the Go Pros on constantly. We would dump all the video files to the computer nightly, so if you have a request to see any section of the ride, PM me and I can get you video. All video was shot in HD: 720P60

=> Weather was nothing short of “perfect”. On Day 5 (Alpine Loop) we encountered a 5 minute “spritz” on the ascent of Cinnamon Pass and later a wind storm mixed with piercing snow on Engineer Pass. Day 11 had some showers as we rolled into Albuquerque. THAT WAS IT. Every other day was simply beautiful. White fluffy clouds, nice breezes, full views of the Milky Way when camping. I never once put on the Aerostitch jacket I brought.

=> THE PLAN: This thread is the plan we went in with - Clearly, we changed some things up, but stuck to the spirit of the route for sure.
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=890965

=> THE ROUTE: The Light Blue lines are ACTUALS, the Red lines were PLANNED. For the most part, we stuck to plan.


=> GPX Files (full version is 6.8 MB. The daily files are all under 1 MB)
Entire Trip
Day 1: Tijeras to Taos 6/3
Day 2: Taos to Rio de los Pinos 6/4
Day 3: Rio de los Pinos to Pinos Creek Plateau 6/5
Day 4: Pinos Creek Plateau to Lake City 6/6
Day 5: Alpine Loop 6/7
Day 6: Lake City to Telluride 6/8
Day 7: Telluride to UT 6/9
Day 8: UT to Ouray 6/10
Day 9: Ouray to Durango 6/11
Day 10: Durango (Train Day) 6/12 - No riding
Day 11: Durango to Albuquerque 6/13

I’m going to *try* to update this thread 1 day per riding day. It takes a while to go through all the video…

Cheers,
Josh
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jahwerx screwed with this post 07-23-2013 at 08:21 PM
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:13 AM   #2
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Day 0 and administrative stuff

Day 0 (what was left of Sunday June 2) was spent meeting the happy couple-to-be in Tijeras, unloading the bikes, grabbing some chow in Albuquerque, and getting a great night’s rest in a Holiday Inn Express.

I’ll use this post to put links to packing lists, work done on the KLR’s, logistics, silly stuff etc…

HERE IS A MASTER LIST of all the bike mods I did to my bike and our packing list:

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...ng%20List.xlsx
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:14 AM   #3
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Day 1

Starting Point: Tijeras, NM
Destination: Taos, NM
Lodging: El Monte Sagrado



Distance Traveled (mi): 184
Ascent (ft.): 14,558
Descent (ft.): 14,896
Approximate % Off-road: 30%



Rating: 7/10
Difficulty: Some of the Indian reservation roads were sandy. The community said the Dunlop D606’s were not highly rated for sand and would get squirrely. I suppose I agree to a point. My solution was simply to add throttle and that would fix most issues. Pat was a little more tentative, and would slow down – IMHO, I think that lead to his almost dropping the bike after shooting across a lane – he stayed up however. The hill climbs through Santa Fe NF were beautiful and not challenging. We did not air down our tires for the day.

Comments and Links to video highlights: The original plan on day 1 was to stick entirely to the paved roads to acclimate to the higher elevation and just get used to riding the bikes with a full load. The advice to go off-road into the Santa Fe NF was GREAT. No regrets at all. For traversing North-South through north-central NM this is the way to go!
Watch the short video of the hill climb - Pat is recording, I'm in the front. Hill Climb in the Santa Fe NF - Near Pumice Mine:



Picking up the pavement skirting Los Alamos/ Santa Fe then taking the “High Road” into Taos was a great was to relax. Staying at El Monte Sagrado made the day even more chill (thank you Marriott points!). Fires were raging in NM as you can see from one of the pictures of the sun through the smoke. Other than the sight and smell of the fire on the pavement, we never got close on our route.



Oh yeah - and one of the MANY large mammals that tried to bring us down. And by "Us" I mean they ALWAYS went after Pat. On Day 1 it was an Elk. Note the brake light and said female elk! Pat had elk tenderloin for dinner that night 'natch.
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:14 AM   #4
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Day 2

Starting Point: Taos, NM
Destination: Carson National Forest, NM
Lodging: Rio de los Pinos Campground



Here is another shot which captures the barrenness and ruggedness of the plateau:


Distance Traveled (mi): 90
Ascent (ft.): 6,634
Descent (ft.): 5,271
Approximate % Off-road: 75%



Rating: 5/10
Difficulty: Only moderate on the Cerro de la Olla hill climb, which wasn’t even on the main route.

Comments and Links to video highlights:
It could only have gotten less classy as we pulled out of El Monte Sagrado. I’m not sure the hotel has ever seen bikers quite like us at their facility. Just one day of riding has us covered in enough dust to look the part. The rest of the day was going to prove to be a bit wilder. I had a couple side routes planned, and we were going to try our first this day.

The morning started out uneventful enough. We fuelled-up, snacked-up, and watered-up Allsup’s. We met a couple of bikers – one on a mid-80s Suzuki that he bragged he paid $200 for (it looked the part, but sounded great). He wasn’t sure if it had a fuel leak, so he put $0.50 of gas in the tank, and took off. The other fellow was riding a late-model ST. Honda certainly knows how to build a motor. That bike sounds like a sewing machine – love it.

The majority of Day 2’s route would be on the Taos plateau. Wide open, empty, flat, and beautiful. The (free) New Mexico topo maps I got for base camp had MANY routes and side routes to take heading north, so I mashed up some tracks provided by user gregdee and added some of my own to explore. It should be noted that we didn’t do ANY wildcatting on our trip – we stayed on-road and on-trail the entire trip. I’m hopeful that in 200 years, the scenery of this area will still be as pretty as it is today.

Our first adventure of the day was crossing the Rio Grande at the John Dunn bridge (not to be confused with the English poet John Donne) and heading up the switchbacks - about a 400’ climb over 1 mile. The elk that sprang in front of Pat on Day 1 must have put an APB out. About 1/3 of the way up I see this mountain goat (or perhaps bighorn sheep – someone ID this beast please) running full tilt STRAIGHT down the mountain directly at Pat. I yell “Antelope!” into the communicator – that was the first thing that popped into my mind – I KNOW its not an antelope, but that just seemed to confuse the heck out of Pat. I may as well have yelled “Quetzalcoatl!” Didn’t matter. In the next 2 seconds he got a face full of more New Mexico big game. Thank goodness that Goat/Sheep was fast. It would have been a long tumble down into the drink. Our epic adventure nearly lasted 1 ½ days. Roll the video:



For the most part, Day 2 got much more chill from that point forward. Before we decided to hit our first side route, Pat decided to take a break I guess, and park his bike the manly way:



Our first side route was to climb up Cerro de la Olla. This was the first “technical” riding we would encounter. All of the roads on the flat of the plateau were very easy to navigate and well maintained, but the road up Cerro de la Olla was more a rugged jeep path. This was our FIRST real trial. Fully-laden KLR’s ridden by 2 folks with no real technical experience. This is how you get experience! I’ve included the requisite video – and it certainly doesn’t look that impressive in hindsight, however it was a challenge. Pat dropped his bike once on the ascent, and I was disappointed to realize they blocked motor traffic at exactly 1/2 –way up the climb. Where the track turns around is where the gate met us. It would have been great to make the summit. I’d say the descent was a bit easier than the climb, but still required a careful eye so as not to get caught on a rock or in a ditch. In the video we actually climb over 400’ over 1.5 miles. Not as steep as coming up from the Rio Grande, but certainly not flat. Here it is:



This was the first and the last of the planned “side trips”. We quickly realized that although the main routes of only 100 or so miles a day looked short on paper, it was plenty of riding for one day, especially since we didn’t have any days off except right at the end of the trip. Ergo, you’ll see that the planned routes are more ambitious that the “actuals”.

We meandered north west and drove the only pavement of the day (since we left 522) for 2.3 miles on US285, then turned into Carson NF. Things quickly turned green and cooled off slightly. We had a great ride all the way to the campground in Rio de los Pinos. We found an excellent camping spot right on the river. It was picturesque. The only downside to this camping location is that you will share the area with cows. Watch your step and be wary of drinking from the river – it looks crystal clear, but who knows what bacteria might be in the water. Our first camping night was a great success!

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Old 06-19-2013, 09:15 AM   #5
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Day 3

Starting Point: Rio de los Pinos campground, Carson National Forest, NM
Destination: Pinos Creek Plateau, Rio Grande National Forest, CO
Lodging: Pinos Creek Plateau (Dispersed Camping)



Distance Traveled (mi): 128
Ascent (ft.): 10,561
Descent (ft.): 8,490
Approximate % Off-road: 70%



Rating: 7/10 (Antonito 2/10)
Difficulty: Easy – a well-ridden full dresser could do this route. Lots of dirt, loose gravel and twisties, so keep your “heads up”

Comments and Links to video highlights:
We woke up to another beautiful morning in the mountains of northern New Mexico - this will be a pattern, by the way. After packing up camp, we headed northeast along the Rio de los Pinos up to the Colorado border. I’ve included a small video clip of the first 2 ½ miles of the morning – note that there is essentially good camping along this entire route while in Carson NF. This is a very scenic and relaxing ride. A great way to start out the morning… spoiler alert – no drops.



This was going to be our second day in a row of camping, so we needed to make sure our water and food supplies were well met. We brought a high-tech water purifier, but I really didn’t have the inclination to try it out if we didn’t have to. Note: We didn’t have to. We were armed with enough Camelback bladders in our tank bags and Sigg water bottles strapped to our mules that we never wanted for hydration. The need for food and fuel did warrant a stop in civilization, and that civilization has a name: Antonito, Co. BARELY. I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s home, but if Antonito wasn’t the end of the world, you could certainly see it from there. Pat decided he was carrying too much sh*t, so he went into the post office to send a reverse care package home (I still have no idea what extra crap he had). Since the town looked seedy, I decided to stay with the bikes rather than venture into the market at the same time. I was greeted by a family whose dad was wearing pajama bottoms and shower shoes, an eyeful of bars/liquor stores/clubs (but no open restaurants), and abject poverty. For everything that Telludide IS, this place ISN’T. However, the market was well stocked (pre-made sandwiches for lunch that were quite good!) and the folks inside were friendly. We loaded up for day 2 of camping. Our water bottles runneth over. The town has a couple of options for fuel as well. Had we known, there is actually a diner IN the gas station and we would have gotten ourselves a hot meal. C’est la vie.

As we happily left Antonito… (THIS was how I felt!):

… we made our way west on Hwy 17, and ultimately northwest into the Rio Grande NF along the Conejos River. The clouds threatened for an hour, but that was the worst of it. Having mid-day shade wasn’t so bad. The views became more stunning as we ascended higher in elevation. This was just a taste of what was to come. We stopped at Stunner Pass (10,500’) for a late lunch:


These were some of the best dirt roads on the entire trip. The Colorado I-want-to gravel-the-shit-out-of-every-mile-of-road crew had not yet arrived here. I’ll revisit this rant later a few times, but suffice it to say, as long as Colorado has roads, gravel companies will have a healthy business. Buy stock now. Just a short clip of us riding up to and around Lake de Nolda. This was a little more than ½ way into our day. The rest of the day’s ride would look very similar (i.e. Very, very good)



I had forgotten there was a tad more pavement – we rode up US 160 for 6 miles before turning onto Beaver Creek road just south of South Fork toward our final push of the day. Given this was early spring, we still had a bit of snow to contend with which required us to slow down in spots. We were expecting this as it is early June above 10k.


The gravel gods had paid a visit to this road. It started getting a little “loose”. I let Pat take the lead, and the 606’s were kicking up a bunch of dust, so I gave him plenty of open road. Then I came upon what you NASCAR fans have been waiting for (the drops, am I right?!):



And not to worry, there are more wrecks to come! OK, no worries for now – Bruised ego, but the safety equipment was certainly working! Crash guards and soft luggage for the Win… now if my riding partner can just keep the bike UP!

Another post-card camp site. Not a bug to be seen in the beauty of the aspen glade:


That night I wish I had my SLR, as the Milky Way was as clear as day – a new moon and zero light pollution. Another great night’s rest, and looking ahead to day 4…
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:16 AM   #6
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Day 4

Starting Point: Pinos Creek Plateau, Rio Grande National Forest, CO
Destination: Lake City, CO
Lodging: Pleasant View Resort - Cabins



Distance Traveled (mi): 135
Ascent (ft.): 9,806
Descent (ft.): 11,379
Approximate % Off-road: 70%



Rating: 5/10
Difficulty: Easy – Similar to Day 3, there were no challenging technical roads or trails.

Comments and Highlights:
I’ll sound like a broken record, but we woke up to another great morning. I was looking for the Disney stage crew to tear it down when we were packing up, but they never arrived:



We had a camp stove, percolator and some ground Starbucks coffee to meet the sunrise (who am I kidding – we slept past that), but in our haste to ditch Antonito yesterday, we “forgot” about breakfast provisions. Our plan was to head to Del Norte straight away, but I had genuine fears that we would be in the same situation as the day before and have to make the best of it with Powerbars or some sort of trail mix – I pretty much detest both. I put those in the same food group as hair.

The exit out of Rio Grande NF was simple. We followed Pinos Creek Rd for 16 miles straight into Del Norte while descending 2,500’ down to 8,000’ in the process. As a side note, neither Pat nor I experienced ANY symptoms of altitude sickness the entire trip – camping at over 10k is fun! Pinos Creek Road tees into Rt 160. Directly at this intersection we saw a sign that said “Groceries”, “Espresso”, “Café”, and a few more things. BINGO – we pulled right in – full stop.

I’ll go on record as saying this was THE SINGLE BEST meal I had on the entire trip. Not because it was the most high class (Allred’s in Telluride wins that award), or the most snooty (the French owners of Bruno’s Restaurant in Lake City win), or the largest servings (Serious Texas B-B-Q in Durango), etc. but because the food was fantastic, the server and cook were awesome, the environment was relaxing (and VERY unexpectedly bohemian), and something about the place instantly recharged our mental batteries. I think I know how Frodo must of felt when he arrived at Rivendell after being stabbed by the Black Riders.
The name of the place is Peace of Art Café:

Please stop in if you pass through Del Norte. Not surprisingly, they don’t cater to the local crowd, and you’ll understand this as soon as you step in. Travellers account for “most” of their business according to our waitress (my guess – 90%). Hint: The $5 special on the outdoor sign is a little of a bait-and-switch. $7 for a fresh-squeezed OJ is not going to draw in the “locals”, but ITS WORTH EVERY PENNY. I looked back at the GPS track and realized we stayed for almost an hour and a half. Of course we had them make us up a lunch-to-go (Panini sandwiches) and we happily motored off on our way to Mordor.

We gassed up at the Shell down the road and suddenly the entire town “blacked out” just as we finished fuelling. It turns out something or someone knocked out the only power line into this town. Our timing was incredible fortunate, since we could not have done the day’s route without fuelling. Well, well, well, we happen upon a dump truck operating as a utility pole. I’ve got no idea if the driver was part of the solution or part of the problem (perhaps both). That solved the power-outage mystery:


We headed north on Rt 112, then split off on “Grand Ave” into the Front Range (bureau of land management). We picked up 41G and headed northwest, then northeast through a valley all the way up to Rt 114 (pavement). Nothing spectacular about this route, but it was easy and pleasant:


One of my stainless water bottle bottles worked its way out of a tie down and went tumbling down the road. This would later come back and haunt me – but for the time being, I simply ensured that EVERYTHING was either in a bag OR fastened with a carabineer at this point forward:


Six miles on Rt 114, then back on dirt and back into the Rio Grande NF then Grand Mesa in the Gunnison NF… The goal of today’s route was to pick up part of the CO backcountry discovery route (BDR) and we did at the intersection of kk14 and nn14 (I’m not making these names up - this is how they were labeled on my free topo maps). Obviously something very important came up. LOOK!! A CLOUD! I‘m not really sure what I was pointing at nor who was benefitting from my gesture:


I’d try to spice the day up, but alas, we had NO DROPS today! This is the best I can do: Large mammals seem to be attracted to Pat’s bike. Perhaps he rides a pace which is more their speed ;) Today was no exception. Fortunately the creatures of the bovine category are much more slow and predictable. Keep them doggies movin' Rawhide! H'yah!


Our last push into Lake City had us turning left off of 50 (dirt) onto 149 (paved). This is a nice curvy road with a decent elevation drop. We passed a lot of bikes that the owners bravely allowed out of their garage for a day. Lots of fairing, no mufflers, and “If you can read this the bitch fell off” stickers on their helmets. I’M KIDDING OF COURSE– they didn’t wear any helmets!

I was fond of this turn in the next picture. I was waving to the bikes coming up while simultaneously negotiating the road. At the apex I dragged a foot peg. It startled me a little!

Here’s where I’ll endorse the Dunlop 606’s – They are GREAT on the tarmac. This was our first taste of “fun pavement” and they didn’t disappoint. Given the bike ran out of lean angle before the knobbies gave up, I can say I’m a huge fan. On day 9 I really push them in Mesa Verde, but you have to scroll down for that video…

A few minutes later, we rolled into our cabin where we would stay for 2 nights:

This is the only place we stayed for more than 1 day, and it afforded us the luxury of ditching most of our bags and doing the Alpine Loop with minimal luggage. Jim and Nita, the proprietors of the Pleasant View Resort are gracious and helpful beyond expectations. I’m sure it helped that we were visiting before the peak season, but this place was very highly rated on Yelp and Trip Advisor, and I see why. I mentioned that we might grill one night, and Jim said – “No problem. Don’t buy charcoal, we have some.” He left the bag and lighter fluid right by our grill later on. He also opened up his workshop for Pat to make a mod on his Go-Pro. ADDITIONALLY, they recommended we have reservations for the Moose Café in town that evening, and of course, nita made them for us before we had even “checked in” to our cabin. TWO THUMBS UP.

Dinner was at Bruno’s Restaurant (the less formal side of the restaurant called The Moose Café was open since it was still very early in the season). The owners are a French couple (Frederique is the hostess, and Bruno, the husband, is the chef). After being seated, we were presented with a menu which explained they had the right to refuse ANYONE service. Welcome to Lake City? It took 20 minutes to place our order (huh?), but once we did it got better from there. Bruno came out personally and asked me if I wanted to try a variant of the meal I ordered, since he was “just making something new”, and I said sure. The food was excellent. If they don’t exercise their right to deny you service: Go there… just remember to have a reservation, even in the café.

Day 4 was the only day I didn’t make a significant change to the route based on feedback (I was relying on the CO BDR). A few folks suggested that I go through Creede. From the maps that I had, I couldn’t find ANY pass that leads from the Rio Grande NF (Creede area) north into the Gunnison NF. Plus it was very late in the planning process, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to change it up that much. If we had simply taken Rt. 149 from Del Norte to Creede to Lake City, the day would have been over in a couple hours and all the travel would have been on pavement. I suppose one option could have been lurking in the wilds between Rts 160 and 149. NEXT TIME!

Additionally, I don’t think there was any video that really deserved to make the highlight reel on Day 4. The off-road stretch before Rt 149 was a candidate, and if anyone asks, I can throw a clip together – this was part of the CO BRD running in “reverse”.

Wow, I’m not even halfway done with this report… Cheers for now!
Josh
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:16 AM   #7
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Joined: Apr 2013
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Oddometer: 44
Day 5

Starting Point: Lake City, CO
Destination: Lake City, CO
Lodging: Pleasant View Resort - Cabins

2 Nice representative shots of the Alpine Loop:



Distance Traveled (mi): 86
Ascent (ft.): 12.473
Descent (ft.): 12,422
Approximate % Off-road: 80%



Rating: 10/10
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard. This was the second-most technical day of riding. None of it was particularly difficult physically, but mentally we needed to keep constantly vigilant, as the price of an error in many circumstances would result in serious injury or death. At no point did we feel like we needed to turn around, ditch, etc. Leave the full dresser behind for this trip!

Comments and Highlights:
This was the day we were working up to: The Alpine Loop. We took measures to make this the best experience possible:
=> As already mentioned, we were spending 2 nights in Lake City.
=> We ditched the majority of our gear in our cabin. I was typically carrying all the tools and spares, so we split the load on this day, and only needed our Twisted Throttle top bag and Givi tank bag. I’m guessing we shed 100 lb per bike right off the bat.
=> We ate a great breakfast at Hutch’s http://www.sportsmanstexaco.com/ (We met Hutch, but his waitress was a hellova lot cuter) and planned on lunch in Silverton, so no need to carry food. Just a couple of containers of water for the ride.
=> Riding under 100 miles. No need to push it.

The first 15 miles of the trip were very similar to the previous days’ ride. Just another nice ride up the Lake Fork River valley on County Road 30. We were almost 20% into the ride and I was thinking “Eh, Nice. But I’ve been there; done that”…
That’s when we turned right onto shelf road with the signage clearly pointing to Cinnamon Pass and Silverton. At this point the ride started to get genuinely fun.

Approximately ½ way up Shelf Road, I ran into a Jeep and an ATV slowing to a stop at a scenic turnout point:


The Jeep appeared to have an alert guide, as he immediately waved me on, but I was on the throttle pretty heavy coming up the road and would have ditched Pat had I kept going. I waved him off, chilled out for a couple of minutes and waited for my co-rider to arrive. We collectively waited a few more minutes so as to put some road in between ourselves and the other vehicle. This is where the video below starts. It’s a long video (for the benefit of those that haven’t ridden it.) For those that have, you can see that the wide-angle shots don’t convey the grade very well, but suffice it to say, its more fun to ride than watch ☺
So if you want to just skip ahead, here are the markers:

0:00 – 4:00 Shelf Road earns its name.
4:00 – 16:00 Not too exciting… @8:00 – we roll through Whitecross & Burrow Park – Lots of Jeeps here
16:00 – Starts spitting a bit, and that was the only rain we would encounter until we rolled into Albuquerque at the end of our trip
17:00 – Throw on some rain gear
19:40 – The slow-as-molasses ATV’s (Mark I)
20:10 – The side cut to American Basin and an easy water crossing
24:15 – 29:15 – Continue on the pass road, the “switchbacks” (10% grade), the slow ATV’s (Mark II). Pat and I get a little “chatty” on the radios
29:15 - 33:45 – The Final run to Cinnamon Pass: From there it is an easy 1.3 miles to the pass (still 11% grade, but fairly straight). Lots of snow, but the pass is 100% clear. Enjoy:



We lounged for a while on the pass and met a mother/son who I passed right before reaching the top. AND THEN the 2 ATVs arrived! The initial comment the driver of the first ATV says as he’s approaching is something like “Dagnabit, you whippersnappers gave us a scare – I’m so angry I could spit! What are you lads running… hi-test in those bikes!? Etc…” Then his buddy pulls up on the next ATV and says “Don’t worry about it sonny, he can’t hear shit!” We all started laughing. If they had blinkers on the ATV’s , they would be ON ALL THE TIME. If the pass road had a left lane, they would have been IN IT the whole time.
I give major props to these 2 couples (who’s combined age was probably that of the Earth). They are still rocking the Rockies. My guess is they were probably around when the mountains formed. If I’m fortunate enough to live that old, I’d be happy crawling over these hills on an ATV. Bye bye old timers:


Onward! Our descent off Cinnamon was met by a few ATVers heading up in the opposite direction. Fairly easy riding and great views as we approached Animas Forks:


The road conditions were perfect for me: Rough, a bit technical, loose chunky rock, but no “marbles”:


This road toward Silverton afforded a great view of the Animas River:


After travelling a couple miles out of Animas Forks, the rest of the ride into Silverton was unimpressive. Wide, flat roads suitable for semis with ample marbles. Crappy road, great views. We eventually hit pavement, and rolled into Silverton. Time for lunch at Handlebars. My assessment of Silverton is that it’s a t-shirt shop town. The Native American jewelry is imported from New Mexico and Seattle, the souvenir shops are cookie cutter and forgettable, and the “art” was, well, not my bag, baby. When I asked the waitress in Handlebars where the men’s room was, she replied “the outhouse!”. Yee-haw the wild west – I’m sure she’s NEVER used that joke before. But, she was genuinely friendly and the food there was good. Who should sit down next to us as we are about to leave than the 2 old couples on the ATVs. I wonder if they were stalking us like some grim reaper omen… Anyway, in the restaurant manager’s mind: GET OUT! Turn these tables over – MORE TOURISTS to get through!! Make sure they buy t-shirts on their way out (we did).

If you read the comment on Day 4, one of my stainless Sigg water bottles took a tumble on the gravel at speed. Today, we filled our water bottles and simply put them in our top bags since we were travelling light. Here is where I get to endorse the Twisted Throttle Dry bag system. It kept everything on the outside of the bag absolutely dry. As I went to place my souvenir bag in my top bag, I open it to find a swimming pool. The Sigg bottle had sprung a pin-hole leak the day before, and after all the bouncing around that day, irrigated the entire contents of the bag. ½ an hour of laying everything on the sidewalk and wiping all the tools down, etc., and we were ready to set off from Silverton:

We were the few that wouldn’t take the Million Dollar highway out of Silverton (although we’ll catch it just a bit later in the day!). Instead we headed north on Cty Rd 110a into the Columbine BLM. The road falls into the bucket of “nothing spectacular since its designed for heavy trucking” until we get to the intersection of Rt 52. We slice off to the left on R10, and it gets fun and incredibly scenic again. This is how we both felt after the hill climb:


Little did we know that we were feet from Corkscrew pass at that moment.
We were amped up and I couldn’t let the virgin snow be. Snow angel time!


A few yards ahead and we descend Corkscrew Pass: I’ve included video of both Patrick and me. You can see we both successfully get to the bottom without incident, but we have different riding styles, even on nearly identical bikes. Even if you skip this video, watch the last 15 seconds ☺



If you watched, you can see that I fumble the question on how many more of “these” do we have today. I was ½ correct. No other descent of the day will come close to Corkscrew. However the most challenging ASCENT of the Alpine loop is yet to come.

I was tempted to go back up corkscrew just to see what it was like, but Pat would have told me to bugger off and if I had taken a tumble, he would likely just laughed and continued on the ride.

I’d describe the last 3 miles of Rt 20a, which led us out to the Million Dollar Highway, as a great “Jeep path”. It was bumpy, rugged, gladed, UNgravelled, and fun. We jumped on the Million Dollar Highway for 4 miles heading north to Rt 18 which is where we pick the Alpine Loop back up as it follows the Uncompahgre River and the Mineral River SSE toward Engineer Pass. This road is worthy of its name:


Take a look at the elevation profile for the day. At this point we are at the 57 mile mark and about to start a no-mercy climb. Just another day at the office, no?


There was so much great terrain, I kept most of it in the video footage in the clip below, so I broke it into 2 parts. I can say without a doubt that this was THE BEST terrain of the entire trip. Hard, but not impossible, beautiful, risky, and relatively sparse with traffic: Here is Part1:



…and from there we get into some … uhh … trouble? Perhaps an alternative to the center stand? Pat has interesting ways of parking his ride:


Josh shakes head… The video has some great roads, and a red-herring side trip. Its good to have a GPS plan, but better to realize WHEN NOT to follow it!
OK, Roll Part 2:



It was only hours before this video was taken we were in t-shirts eating lunch, so when the snow flurries arrived at the top of the pass we were amazed – refreshing, and frankly a bit unsettling when the wind picked up. Before departing the pass and heading back to Lake City, we were setting up a pose for a distance shot, when the wind picked up so much I thought it would knock our bikes over. We never got that shot. The descent off the pass on the eastern side of the mountain was much more tame than the ascent, and the ride back into Lake City easy-peasy. One last pic of us leaving the pass… Get out of the squall!


Let’s see, we ate at Lake City Café that night. Good atmosphere, OK food. We were too tired to grill, but I wish we had. Pat realized he got a flat (very slow leak) on the descent somewhere, so he fixed that at night, while I did some preventative maintenance on the bikes. The flat tire was the only mechanical issue we would have on the entire trip.

Thanks AGAIN to all the folks that recommended this route:
⇨ Perfect weather
⇨ Limited Traffic for such a popular route (go EARLY in the season!)
⇨ Stunning Views
⇨ Technical Challenges
I’ll reiterate: . A perfect 10/10! At this point in my life, this is how I would define a nice “adventure ride”

Next Stop: Telluride!
p.s. I counted about 100 f-bombs on the videos – sorry bout that.
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:17 AM   #8
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Joined: Apr 2013
Location: NJ
Oddometer: 44
Day 6

Starting Point: Lake City, CO
Destination: Telluride, CO
Lodging: Condo – Downtown Telluride



Distance Traveled (mi): 132
Ascent (ft.): 13,088
Descent (ft.): 13,046
Approximate % Off-road: 50%



Rating: 5/10
Difficulty: Easy. A walk in the park. Some very, very moderate “bumps” on Last Dollar pass. This route is the planned “easy way around” on the CO BDR for those that thought that doing Engineer might be a little too technical. This is 100% beginner.

Comments and Highlights:
After a day of riding “light”, it was time to saddle up the pack mules and do an easy day. Pat was suffering from some serious numbness in his hands in the morning. After another filling breakfast at Hutch’s, he went to the local outdoor store to pick up a camp chair (he was jealous of mine) and some padded gloves. His hands looked like there were borrowed from the Michelin Man when he was done, but that wasn’t enough. I suggested he add some damping to the grips as well. I figured that the local Polaris/CanAm dealer would have some old tubes lying around that he could cut up and zip-tie to his grips. They did and he did. I didn’t suffer from the ‘tingles’ or ‘pins and needles’, but I was determined never to death-grip the bars when riding. At any rate, this seemed to work well for Pat, as he had no problems from this point forward with the tingling.

We aired up our tires and headed due north on Rt 149 following the Lake Fork Gunnison River for 21 miles until we turned onto Blue Mesa Rd. Much of the land on 149 is private and this captures the sort of views you’ll see on this road (Did I mention it was another perfect day?):



Blue Mesa Rd. is an unpaved version of Rt 149 until it turns west, splits from Rt 64, crosses the aforementioned river, and starts to climb. 25 miles into the day and it starts to get “good”. In my opinion, elevation change makes everything better!


But sometimes flat is nice too ☺


As you can see, Blue Mesa Road is perfectly graded and maintained. So far this day’s ride is the polar opposite of the Alpine loop. Not a bad thing, just different. I’m sure this type of riding is a lot of folk’s cup of tea. If I could have started treating this road like a Tourist Trophy, I’d have like it more. Although we were only cruising at around 35 MPH (GPS doesn’t lie), I’d comfortably do this at 60 given my druthers.

Perhaps I should have let the footage go to waste, but here is the entire 17 miles in 12 minutes:



We hopped on Rt 50 West which is a nice piece of pavement:



There was some construction which held us up, but after that, things moved along at a decent pace. After 14 miles on the hard top, we turned onto Cimarron Road heading south toward Gunnison NF. Cimarron Road logically follows the Cimarron River valley for 20 miles. As we pulled off into some shade, we met a solo rider coming the opposite direction who stopped and chatted with us for a while. He mentioned that he was on a 3-day solo ride and last year he had done this very same road on his sport bike. He didn’t mention what kind of sport bike, but based on the pictures you’ve seen, pretty much ANY bike was worthy of this road. This time he wasn’t riding a sport bike. He had a “let’s check all the boxes” KTM 990 Adventure Baja Edition. I mean every factory option – hard bags, full riding suit, etc. all in formal KTM regalia. It looks like one heck of a bike. I’m sorry I didn’t get a pic or his name, but I have a feeling he’s got a user ID on these boards… If you make your way to this thread, CHIME IN!!

The route has us turn west on Rt 860 which then followed the West Fork of the Cimarron River. Rt 860 gets renamed Rt 8 when we cross the Ouray border, and meanders west out of the national forest and into private land:



We take some zigs and zags and ultimately get spit out on Rt 550 in Ridgeway. Here is where we departed from the CO BDR route. Rather than slogging it on 550 to Ouray, (or sticking to Rt s62/145 to Telluride) I saw a neat video of a Jeep on Last Dollar Pass. Compared to the Alpine Loop, Last Dollar is the red-headed stepchild of passes, but it proved to be the most technical of the day – and that’s not saying much. It was REALLY nice late in the day, but I was jonesing for Engineer after this ride. Here are some highlights of Last Dollar:



We pulled into Telluride, and we instantly realized this was the first place we could relate to coming from the east coast. Lots of action, tons of cool people, live music in the streets, and plenty of cool shops.

We stayed in a condo (for free – thanks friends!) which was in walking distance to the gondola. That took us up to Allred’s restaurant (http://www.tellurideskiresort.com/Te...r/allreds.aspx), where we had a very good meal.

We met some folks doing the “Ride the Rockies” which looks like a heck of a bike tour (without engines!) http://ridetherockies.com/

Telluride is THE place I would live in the area. Action all-year around and an overall great vibe… Next day: UTAH!

- Josh
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:17 AM   #9
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Joined: Apr 2013
Location: NJ
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Day 7

Starting Point: Telluride, CO
Destination: Fisher Mesa, UT
Lodging: Dispersed Camping



Distance Traveled (mi): 147
Ascent (ft.): 10,402
Descent (ft.): 11,766
Approximate % Off-road: 25%



Rating: 7/10
Difficulty: EXCEPT for Fisher Mesa. VERY Easy. Pavement and a small section of super-easy hardpack all the way from Telluride to Gateway. John Brown Canyon Road is also a non-technical dirt road. Once we turned off of Gateway Rd. onto Fisher Mesa (we were well into UT at this point), it was the most challenging technical riding we did. But more on that below.

Comments and Highlights:
Day 7 was specifically meant to be a diversion from the San Juans. The decision to opt for a desert ride was three-fold:
1. The first was simply for a change of pace/ change of scenery. We had heard that Hwy 141 was incredibly scenic.
2. A racing buddy of mine who works on high-end and historic cars as personal experience working on the vehicles at the Gateway Auto Museum. I’m a car buff as well, so I wanted to be sure to catch this. How often does one randomly roll through Gateway, CO? The answer… never.
3. I wanted to create an adventure track COMPLETELY on my own. By looking at the topo map collection I had, and Google Earth, I designed a non-traditional route from an established road onto a trail of unknown quality. The best I could find of the interwebs was a mountain bike review of the trail (warning: mountain bikes are a tad more maneuverable than laden KLRs…)

But not before breakfast. There was a plethora of fantastic eateries in Telluride. We opted for “The Steaming Bean” http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-steaming-bean-telluride-2. Knowing that we weren’t going to get a decent meal for a while (until we rolled into Ouray in 2 nights), we filled up on Belgian Waffles, espresso, acai smoothies and other treats. I really didn’t want to leave.

So off we went! We backtracked on Rt 145 past the Telluride airport. This road follows the San Miguel river through the Uncompahgre BLM. Hi rafters!



There was a nice little ascent on 145 as it rose out of the BLM into private land, but other than that, the First 50 miles of the day were pretty uninspiring. Pavement, pavement, pavement, ho hum. If I hadn’t done some real off-roading, I’d probably say this road was nice. Now its just “meh”. Obviously the KLR isn’t the best option for a pavement pounder, but the bike never disappointed. I never experienced any “buzziness” that annoyed me, and the lack of fairing was no big deal. I actually like the wind.

Once we were on the plateau, the road got downright BORING…



… all the way to Naturita, where we stopped for gas, water (@Naturita Sales), and lunch (@Blondie’s, right next door). 145 turns into 141 a couple miles before town

At this point, I was a little worried that this would be the LAST fuel we would see from this point all the way the Ouray the following night, since there we rumors that Gateway no longer had a gas station. NOTE: Gateway DOES have a newly-installed 24-hour Credit-card activated pump – so NO WORRIES.

The plan now was to continue on 141 up to Gateway through a generally-accepted scenic route. However, I was asked to see if there was a valid road that connects Hwy 90 (from the south) to Hwy 141 (to the north) approximately 18 miles out of Naturita. The answer is yes! It’s a really nice cut that follows the Dolores River through a small amount of private land, and back into the Uncompahgre BLM. Here it is:



That was a nice diversion which might have added 15 miles, but definitely worth it, since the best of Rt 141 is still ahead. Here is what we rode through on the way to Gateway:



Now THAT bit of highway didn’t suck. My riding partner started getting passed by Ram 3500’s with 5th wheels…



… so I decided to open it up a bit. Again, props on the 606’s – The bike never felt skittish on these knobs.

We arrive in Gateway, and take a visit to the Auto Museum: http://www.gatewayautomuseum.com/ If you are within an hour of the area and have any like or love of motor vehicles, stop in here for sure! They even have a couple bikes (Indians). Here is a 1929 Packard Model 645 deluxe roadster in my favorite color



The museum and Gateway Resort are John Hendrick’s creation – He’s the founder of the Discovery Channel, and has ties to the area. Good luck filling that resort up - $600/night – fat chance, this is hardly a “destination” town. Onto the dirt…

John Brown Creek Rd starts as red-rock canyon road that rises up to a more forested terrain as we enter the Moab BLM:



We pop into and out of private land along the road, and after 23 miles of super-easy dirt, we turn onto the Fisher Mesa trail. We are now in Utah in the La Sal United States Forest Service area. My goal here was to follow a trail out toward the edge of the mesa, where we would hopefully glimpse the Colorado River Valley below.

The reality of the situation is this:
1) We’ve already ridden 145 this day, and its getting late
2) We are heading onto a trail that hasn’t been vetted by any ADV riders (at least not to me)
3) We are fully encumbered with a lot of fuel and full loads of water
4) The direction we need to travel is directly at the sun which is in perfect position to blind us at the times when vision would be REALLY USEFUL. Unfortunately, we can’t “let the sun set” and wait it out since we still need to establish a camp
5) BUT! We’ve only got 10 miles to go – how hard can this be??

Watch:



This was my only “Drop” of the entire 11 days “at speed”. I had a few 0 MPH fails in parking lots due to stupidity, (and in frustration, I laid it down IMMEDIATELY after picking it up here), but this was the one trail that caused me a real fail. I wasn’t going to let that happen on the way out, and the next morning I keep my word(but that is for tomorrow).

So the net result is that we made it down the John Fisher Mesa 5 miles. If I had been riding solo, I would have kept pushing all the way out, but Patrick was incredibly frustrated at that point, and had I tried and succeeded in convincing him to go “just a little more” something worse likely would have happened, and one of us could really have gotten hurt. Time to lick the wounds, set up camp and call it a day.

We found a flat piece of land, a rock slab which served as a nice base for our fire that evening, and more seasoned wood than you could shake a stick at. We reached the end of our freeze-dried camp rations that night, and felt surprisingly full. Just as we are chilling in our camp chairs throwing wood on the fire, we STOP SHORT. Both of us hear something BIG and CLOSE.

Our night vision is shot because of the fire, but Patrick’s flashlight from hell made that go away in a hurry. He picks it up, switches it on and slowly starts to scan the perimeter of the campground where we heard the sound. Then: two huge yellow eyes staring at us. As we gained focus, we were glad to see it was a cow and not a bear. She had the requisite ear tag, but she also had 2 calves hiding behind her. We didn’t want to rile her up, so we just sat back down by the fire. I’m sure she was simply curious, and I’m guessing that they might have been looking for water – I didn’t see ANY up there.

The cows continued to circle about even after we retired to the tent, but we were exhausted and eventually thought that if we would get stepped on, at least it would be a quick ending. It wasn’t meant to be, and we simply had another perfect night under a cloudless sky.

Our Camp:

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Old 06-19-2013, 09:18 AM   #10
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Joined: Apr 2013
Location: NJ
Oddometer: 44
Day 8

Starting Point: Fisher Mesa, UT
Destination: Ouray, CO
Lodging: Ouray Hot Springs Inn



Distance Traveled (mi): 173
Ascent (ft.): 16,232
Descent (ft.): 15,929
Approximate % Off-road: 75%



Rating: 5/10
Difficulty: If you watched the Day-6 video of our ride out to Fisher Mesa, you can get a feel for what we had to contend with in the morning. It was a technical, 5-mile route with the added benefit of having to go UPHILL (someone dropped their bike a few times on the way out as well… not it!). After we got off Fisher Mesa, the ride to Ouray was as easy as it gets for both paved and unpaved roads.

Comments and Highlights:
First, the video of the ride out is much higher quality than the ride in, since the sun is not in our faces, and it gives a better sense of the terrain. PLUS, you get to see three more drops (who doesn’t love a good drop or three!). It was one fewer than last night, and I’m really happy I was able to stay up this day. Pat was clearly frustrated with the trail and told me he was happy I dumped my bike the night before ☺ Schadenfreude at its finest.



There will be no more drops on the trip. I think that means we aren’t pushing it enough… I’ll go on record as saying Fisher Mesa Trail was my second-favorite trail of the trip – I’ve realized I’m much more a fan of the technical riding than simply smooth roads and endless vistas. With that said, the dirt back to Gateway on John Brown Creek Rd. was uneventful:



Moo:



We located the self-serve gas station in Gateway and filled up. The lady in the adjoining post office was kind enough to make change so we could get drinks out of the vending machine. We witnessed the pouring and smoothing of concrete of the to-be-opened general store. Perhaps by the time some of you read this, the store will be open! I forgot to turn my Go Pro off, and it turned into my Moment of Zen (best video of the trip!):



At this point THE PLAN was to take the Divide Trail (dirt) down the entire length of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Pat made the mental decision that he was DONE with dirt today. Mentally, I was done with pavement. We agreed to split up today and take parallel paths back to the San Juans. I was going to stick to the plan, and Pat would backtrack the exact same route we did yesterday in reverse, and then split off to Ouray instead of heading into Telluride. We agreed to search for each other at 6 PM if we hadn’t arrived at the hotel or checked in electronically… So after watering up and gassing up, we went our separate ways for the day.

From Gateway, I continued on Rt 141 northeast for 28 miles toward Grand Junction. If Gateway didn’t have gas, I would have continued up to GJ, then come back. Fortunately, I didn’t need to. I turned off of 141 to begin the ascent up to the plateau:



The initial climb up was probably the only “curvy” section of the road. I met a friend (perhaps a Glossy Snake or a Bull Snake?) on the road, and made sure he slithered off to safety:



Much of the ride was very open, flat, and well-maintained:



This allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do today: Go Fast. Very Fast.
- Loose gravel: Fast
- Hard pack: Fast
- Straightaways: Fast
- Curves: Fast

I never saw (or cared to acknowledge) a posted speed limit, but I’m pretty sure I was over it! When Pat and I would travel together, on the gravel we’d keep to around 25-30. I honestly felt the slower I went the less control I had – I prefer to let the tires “float” a bit and be incredibly light on the inputs. It seemed to serve me well. I was cruising normally “right around 50 MPH”,and that is according to the GPS; my speedometer was WAY optimistic, saying I was pushing closer to 60. It felt great. Unfortunately, the Divide Road is not “stunning”, “epic”, or anything else I’d put in quotes. Every sign that looked interesting (i.e. had the word “Pass” in it) was a side route. Since I was on a schedule today, I couldn’t spend any time exploring these off-shoots. I did manage to find a nice meadow for an alpine lunch:



Lots of vistas that might be found on a default installation of Microsoft Windows, but the route is not video-worthy:



So this day, I rode nearly 175 miles – the vast majority on dirt. I somehow still beat Pat to the Hotel, who stuck to 100% pavement the entire way back and rode ~20 fewer miles)… I was definitely hoofing it. Welcome to the top-rated hotel in Ouray:



At the end of the day if I had to pick ONLY ONE way to go from Gateway back to the San Juan area I’d take the pavement – Rt 141. But given we had to go up and back, I much preferred to explore new area and take the Divide Trail back. Unequivocally, The BEST part of the day was the first 5 miles! Re-roll that first video today!!

Back to the present: The “Inn” has been recently updated, and the beds are totally comfortable. The interesting thing I was told when I checked in was that the “Hot Springs” were closed for cleaning. Huh? I guess they just turned off the Earth for a while. Pretty impressive. I wasn’t planning on swimming anyway. The dinner that night was in a steakhouse in town – completely forgettable – so much so, that I forgot the name. The town’s main street is completely slanted, which makes for an interesting walk, but the shops reminded me a lot of Silverton. They are going for “classic old west” vibe, but sell a lot of sh*t made in China. I was a sucker and bought some jewelry and t-shirts for my wife, daughter and son, with eyes-wide-open. Mr. Tourist opened his wallet slightly…

On the walk back home from dinner we came upon a statue which is a mascot for the town. I’ll call him the S&M masturbating miner. This was THE BEST part of Ouray:



Ophir pass tomorrow!
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:18 AM   #11
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Joined: Apr 2013
Location: NJ
Oddometer: 44
Day 9

Starting Point: Ouray, CO
Destination: Durango CO
Lodging: Hampton Inn, Durango



Distance Traveled (mi): 187
Ascent (ft.): 17,380
Descent (ft.): 18,288
Approximate % Off-road: 50%



Rating: 6/10
Difficulty: Not at all difficult. We had one last “hurrah” and that was Ophir Pass. It was the easiest unpaved high-mountain pass of the bunch. As I’ve mentioned before, you wouldn’t want to make a mistake, as that could be disastrous, but the surface itself wasn’t challenging, especially with all the experience we had been accumulating over the past week. Every other road was trivial.

Comments and Highlights:
Starting the day was as strange as it was difficult. All we wanted to do was eat breakfast, and grab a a couple of sandwiches for the road. Simple, right? No. The Hot Springs Inn claimed to have free breakfast, and it was to a point. If you like rolls, yogurt, and cereal. Eh, I don’t. I wanted a real breakfast. After walking back from the restaurant the night before we saw a deli that had signs for espresso, etc, so we walked down and gave that a try. All they had was coffee drinks. That’s it. The owner was gracious enough to open the deli next door and make us some sandwiches for the road, but we still wanted a REAL breakfast. Third time was the charm. We went all the way back into town and found a great little restaurant called the Timberline Deli of Ouray. It is near the intersection of 3rd St and 8th Ave. The owner was surprised that we already had sandwiches with us, but we explained and he just laughed. GREAT BREAKFAST. Now off to the hills…

We head south on the Million Dollar Highway. This is the “fun” direction to travel, since we are on the dangerous side of the road. Don’t have a Million Dollar Fall!



We get stopped by a road crew, and wonder what the heck they are doing to the PERFECTLY GOOD road. Why of course, lets put down a fresh layer of TAR AND GRAVEL. Seriously? What is it with Colorado and their love affair with GRAVEL?



After travelling 19 miles on pavement (and GRAVELED pavement) we turn left onto Rt 8 (aka the dirt road that goes over Ophir Pass). Roll the video of Ophir Pass:



The best view of the area was when we stopped on the one switchback that Ophir pass offers. It’s an incredibly easy pass, and after doing a bunch of riding, I’d say this is a perfect beginner off-road “adventure” ride.

While the smallest operating post office in the United States is located in Ochopee FL, we stumbled across the SECOND-smallest post office in the US: Ophir, CO. We stopped to mail some souvenirs home. At one point there were three patrons in the building and it was seriously a crowd. This is all of it:



We started making our way south to Mesa Verde National Park, with plans to camp there. The route followed, Hwy 145, was unremarkable. We fuelled up in Rico, and saw a little café next door and decided to get a coffee, smoothie, etc. Recall that we already had our lunch sandwiches from the morning. This was the second place to mention us bringing “outside food” on premise, but she was a bitch about it. (The guy at Timberline Deli in Ouray was totally cool) She reluctantly let us eat there anyway. Note to folks running a business: We are paying customers buying your damn coffee and drinks, and if we had JUST had that, no problem, right? No thanks to “Annie's High Ground Coffee Shack”. With attitude you get bad reviews. Please pass this place. Our off-road riding was over at this point, and we just wanted to chill a bit before doing some more touristy stuff, however, this experience fully cemented Rico, CO as the number 2 crappiest town on our trip, next to Antonito. Antonito was still the CLEAR winner in this category.

We continued south on Hwy 145 into Cortez. Since I don’t remember the ride, it was forgetful. We turned East onto Hwy 160 which brought us to Mesa Verde. We arrived and were greeted by this monstrosity:



We got there in the mid afternoon, and the website recommends getting there in the morning to secure a “tour slot” (You can’t wander on your own into the cave pueblos – you must take a guided tour). Fortune favored us, and we were able to grab the 6PM tour of the most “adventurous” Pueblos – Balcony House. It involves the most climbing – up 30’ ladders and such on the side of the mountain. I credit the fact that it was still early in the season. Had it been summer, we would likely have been S.O.L. They recommend an hour to travel from the visitor center to Balcony House, and we had plenty of time. We inquired into the camping on site and discovered that had fuel, a shop, R/V hookups, etc. Exactly what we DIDN’T want in a camping experience, so we made the snap decision to just go to Durango one day early and spend 2 nights there. There must have been a mining convention or something, since we found it very difficult to find a room that night. We spend 45 minutes on the phone and finally scored a room. By now our time was running out… we looked at our watches and realized we left ourselves ½ hour to get to Balcony House. The tour would simply start without us. We were scolded by the ranger station that we would never make it on time:



We made it in time :) The one thing I realized as we were hastily making our way through the park was how epic the road was. The BEST paved road of the entire trip. The views on the Million Dollar Highway were more spectacular, but the pavement in Mesa Verde was PERFECT, and the views were a close second. GORGEOUS. Highly recommended. The only issue was that on our way in it was clogged with lots of campers and gawkers. I was able to gap some vehicles, then take a nice turn quickly, lather, rinse, and repeat. Good enough.

If you are in the area, please visit this park and take the tour. It’s a fascinating place, and the engineering of the in-cliff pueblos is incredible. I’d be happy to have a modern-day mason do a nice a job as the folks did back in the 1400’s!



These are some of the said ladders we got to climb. If you are afraid of heights, I’d recommend doing this, because you have to suck it up and just go. I hate heights!



Our ranger/tour guide was amazing. Again, visit this great park. And now for our journey back out. I was looking forward to the twisties, and they didn’t disappoint. We waited around at Balcony House for about 15 minutes to let the tour “clear out”… put some open road in front of us. The plan seemed to work. Since we were there for one of the last tours of the day, the traffic suddenly vaporized. Here is the ride out in the late afternoon. An A+ ride … and this is on a fully loaded thumper with knobbies! Ha. This would have been super special on my old VFR:



I waited a couple minutes for Pat at the visitor center, and then we ran into a father/son riding a 90’s and 80’s vintage BMW’s, respectively. We had a great chat and reminisced about our sport-touring days… The road into Durango brought us back to “civilization”. The United States of Generica. Big box stores, strip malls, fast food. Ugh. We ate at “Serious Texas BBQ”. I’ll seriously, never need that much meat again in my life. What it lacked in quality it made up for in quantity. There were some folks eating there that reminded me of the way the parents ate in the movie “Spirited Away”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AR6cK62Y8-Y

The Hampton Inn was new and nice. A good night’s rest for the last of our real “adventure motorcycling”!
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jahwerx screwed with this post 07-19-2013 at 09:22 AM
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:19 AM   #12
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Day 10

Starting Point: Durango, CO
Destination: Durango CO
Lodging: DoubleTree, Durango



Rating: 7/10

Comments and Highlights:
Today, the bikes stood guard of the DoubleTree Hotel. This was the lone rest & relaxation day of the entire trip. We had a single plan: Ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad. http://www.durangotrain.com/

A few days before, I booked the trip. Again, I got lucky, because in the peak season, reservations are made well in advance. Some rude German tourists who showed up “the day of” were denied. Our plan was to take the bus from Durango to Silverton along 550 (the Million Dollar Highway), along the stretch we had not yet travelled, get lunch in Silverton, then enjoy the relaxing train ride which follows the Animas river back into Durango. Spoiler alert: The day went exactly as planned!

After parking our bikes at the hotel where we would stay that night, we had a short walk over to the “cool” part of Durango. It was much nicer to see Mom & Pop stores than the generic hell of strip malls found on the main drag. I grabbed a coffee and NY Times and relaxed while Pat went looking for something – maybe a belt?? At any rate, after catching up on world affairs, we walked over to the train station and caught a glimpse of Pocahontas, or someone trying to look the part.



I just assumed she was “part of the show” (not that there was any show around). Turns out she was on the same tour as us, so I guess that was just her normal wear? “Squaw no getum firewood.”

The bus driver was a seasoned pro and had his patter down to each turn in the road. We got a little history lesson and he attempted to frighten us with the sheerness of the highway – yeah, ok, been there, done that… eyes on the road buddy.

Arrived in Silverton without event and took a walk around. We’ve already been here, so we didn’t see much new. Souvenir town. Ok, this was cool – a half-track outside the local VFW!



We dined at a local Mexican restaurant, killed some more time checking out the tourist traps, and took great advantage of Colorado’s new liberal laws before boarding the train.



The train ride was totally relaxing – we rode in a glass-encased car called the “Silver Vista” http://www.durangotrain.com/ride-us/...s/silver-vista We travelled at a very leisurely rattle-along pace which put most of the folks to sleep. Pat and I dragged the average age WAY down on this ride. It didn’t say we were booking the “retiree car” when I signed up… anyway, we met some cool folks and a bunch more stiffs. The views were sweet, and the overall experience a very nice. Here are a couple shots of what you see on the steeper slopes:



Looking out the window, this is exactly what you see below:



Good times. Nearing the end of the line, they handed us each a souvenir bag. They had included a travel mug, and in one of the pockets, someone had packed fudge. I wonder how they found an employee to fulfill the requirements of the job. Did the ad go something like “Fudge packer needed?” Hmmm.

After returning to Durango, we ended up bumping into the BMW father/son duo we met the day before and one of the folks we met on the train in town. I felt like the Mayor of Durango for a while. I wanted to do the “double-thumb-pistol-shoot” at passers by.

Earlier in the day we migrated our stuff from the Hampton Inn to the DoubleTree… This is all the sh*t we carried on our 2 motorcycles:



Another good nights rest and onto Albuquerque the next day.
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jahwerx screwed with this post 07-19-2013 at 03:30 PM
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:19 AM   #13
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Joined: Apr 2013
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Day 11

Starting Point: Durango, CO
Destination: Albuquerque, NM



Distance Traveled (mi): 242
Ascent (ft.): 11,958
Descent (ft.): 13,283
Approximate % Off-road: 0%



Rating: 1/10
Difficulty: None. All paved road.

Comments and Highlights:
My initial plan had us taking unpaved roads for a good portion of the route back into NM. If we had 2 days, I would have stuck to this plan. We didn’t. I needed to be back in NM to pick my wife up at ABQ that night, and from our experience, there was no way we would have enjoyed a 311 mile off-road journey in a single day. It would have been a trial of heat and endurance, and that’s really not how we wanted to end the trip. Instead we ended it with quite pathetic views of billboards advertising casinos, and casinos themselves. Additionally, I possibly saw 100 anti-DUI billboards. It must be a real problem in NM. Oh yeah: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/n...iving/2370479/

The reason I gave this ride a 1 and not a zero is that the roads were paved well, we didn’t have any mechanical issues, nor we didn’t die in a grizzly death in the New Mexico desert.

The route is decidedly NOT video worthy, so I thought it would be funny to put a time lapse together of the bikes getting loaded, and how much stuff can fit on a properly equipped KLR…



The day was all like this:



If there were any “twists” it might have been fun, but it was just a straight shot. It reminded me very much of crossing Nebraska on Rt 80 many years ago. No joy: just make the miles go by. For me, this is the worst kind of motoring. At least the locals made it interesting, if not a bit stereotypical:



We rolled into Albuquerque through a tiny bit of rain; only our second sprinkle of the entire trip. It felt refreshing. Immediately after checking into the hotel, I rode over to ABQ to pick up my wife, who just flew in for the wedding this weekend. That improved the day dramatically. I forget to turn the GoPro off, and she’s making sure I do a good job of lashing her luggage down. No Problem!



That is it! We made our way back to Tijeras and ultimately to Mountainair, NM over the following weekend for the wedding. It just so happens that a lot of bikers showed up for the wedding, but looking at the last photo, you wouldn’t think we were them…



Cheers,
Josh
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jahwerx screwed with this post 07-21-2013 at 05:05 PM
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Old 06-21-2013, 03:13 PM   #14
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Nice report, looks like you guys had a great trip. Smart move getting the local input, lots of guys come out this way and jump on the CDT, nothing wrong with it as a ride but the area has allot more to offer.

Now that you've got your feet wet so to speak, any plans to continue adv riding?
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RideFreak View Post
Nice report, looks like you guys had a great trip. Smart move getting the local input, lots of guys come out this way and jump on the CDT, nothing wrong with it as a ride but the area has allot more to offer.

Now that you've got your feet wet so to speak, any plans to continue adv riding?
Yes, getting some input from locals and spending time surfing during the planning process definitely paid off! I'll certainly be doing more adventure riding. I'd like to find some stuff on the East Coast, but I'm sure it will pale in comparison to this trip!

Day 3 just added!

Cheers,
josh
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