Archive for February, 2008

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 4

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 4

Leaving Ouray this morning, our Kiwi band heads north on US 550 through Montrose, and Delta, and on up to Grand Junction. Their plan is to ride the Rim Rock Drive route through Colorado National Monument, and then head back south, taking the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway through Gateway and Naturita, past Telluride and over Lizard Head Pass down to Cortez. This is going to be a bit of riding, totaling about 335 miles. Here’s the map. Click to see a larger version.

Ouray to Cortez via Colorado National Monument

The ride up US 50 is uneventful and fairly fast. A significant portion of this road has been made into four-lane divided highway in recent years. Once they reach Grand Junction it will be necessary to enter the town and stay on the US 50 bypass on the south side before turning off onto Glade Park Road, the road that leads to Colorado National Monument. In the Monument, Rim Rock Drive is clearly marked, winding its way though and exiting to the north toward Fruita. Colorado National Monument is described as being a little bit of red-rock Utah within Colorado, and that’s not a bad description.

That’s not the only bit of red-rock Utah in Colorado that our crew will see today, however. Leaving the Monument they will head back east on I-70 to rejoin US 50 and backtrack a few miles to the south, to CO 141 and the Unaweep Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway. Along this road you’ll pass through farmland, areas of wild rock formations, and ultimately to a stretch that you would swear was Utah, except that red-rock cliffs don’t stop at the state line and this is still Colorado. Who knew? Additionally, one of the more interesting historical sights is the hanging flume, an old water channel built onto the sheer-rock cliffs. This is one of those things you’ll look at and wonder “How in the world did they do that?”

For a while after leaving the river this route crosses some high prairie and you’ll probably make some pretty good time. A little east of Naturita you leave CO 141 and pick up CO 145 to Norwood and Placerville. After passing through Placerville you start going up and what you’re really doing is coming around the back side of the mountains that enclose Telluride. Telluride itself is not actually on CO 145, so you have to take the county road about 5 miles to the town. Do. The setting for this little mountain town is simply awesome. And if you have the time, take the free gondola up to get a good look from above.

Heading south from Telluride, the next pass is Lizard Head Pass. Off to your right, high up on the ridge, you’ll see the rock formation that gave it the name. From there it’s down hill, down the valley, on to Cortez, where today’s ride ends.

Alternate Route

I have just one suggestion for this day, and it really only works when you consider the route the remainder of this trip will be taking. This is Day 4 and on Day 5, Steve and crew are heading over into Utah. When they return to Colorado on Day 7 there is not a lot on the agenda as they head for a night in the Eagle/Vail area. It might make good sense to skip Colorado National Monument on Day 4 and swing through there on Day 7, starting at the Fruita end and coming out at Grand Junction. Then on Day 4 you would just come north to the turn-off to CO 141 and the Unaweep highway. That would trim about 50 miles and at least an hour and a half off an otherwise long day, and add more interest to Day 7. Just a thought.,

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 3

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 3

Our biker buddies are leaving Gunnison today, making just a partial loop ride. The plan was originally to do another day trip and spend a third night in Gunnison, but that has been changed, and I think the new plan is a lot better. They’ll end up tonight in Ouray, which is a very nice place to stop. The ride will cover about 270 miles. If they pushed on back to Gunnison it would be another 90 miles, 60 of which they would then retrace the next morning. This is definitely a better plan. Here’s the map. Or click the link to view the larger map.

Gunnison to Ouray

The day begins with a short jaunt west on US 50, just to the eastern end of the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Here you find CO 149, which goes south to Lake City and beyond. Lake City is a pretty little town that is famously home to Texans and the Alferd Packer Massacre Site. For whatever reason, Texans who like to vacation in Colorado have settled on Lake City as their main spot. I even heard a story some years ago that the state of Texas was considering acquiring property around here and creating a Texas state park. That was probably bull, but you get the picture.

As for Alferd Packer, he is Colorado’s only convicted cannibal. He and some other men were stranded by snow in the winter of 1874 and he was the only survivor. It turned out he had survived by eating his companions. The University of Colorado at Boulder has named the cafeteria in its student union the Alferd E. Packer Memorial Grill. There’s a monument that marks the site as you head south out of town.

Heading south out of town on CO 149, you soon cross Slumgullion Pass and then Spring Creek Pass. Once over Spring Creek Pass you will definitely want to stop and check out South Clear Creek Falls. It’s just a quarter mile off the highway on a good paved road. No fees as I recall.

Further along on CO 149 the route leads to Creede. If you just stay on the highway you’ll go past the town but that would be a mistake. Stop here for lunch, or at least for ice cream. Ice cream is very big in Creede.

CO 149 runs into US 160 at South Fork and our riders here take a right. This goes up over Wolf Creek Pass and down to Pagosa Springs. Wolf Creek Pass is another of those great passes you come to Colorado to ride. Here’s an example of what you’ll see coming down on the west side.

Wolf Creek Pass

From Pagosa Springs US 160 leads west over Yellowjacket Pass, another low pass, and on to Durango. Durango is another town that would be well worth staying at for a day or two, but that’s not on the agenda today.

Heading north out of Durango on US 550, our riders will cross two lower passes, Coal Bank Pass and Molas Pass, before descending into Silverton. This part of Colorado seems thick with picturesque towns and Silverton is another of them. It’s also the home of a big hang-gliding festival each summer.

Continuing north, the road crosses Red Mountain Pass. You may get tired of me saying this, but this is another great pass to ride. Plus, one of the really spectacular parts of it is the descent into Ouray. I definitely prefer to take this road north to south rather than going the other way.

Ouray is an excellent place to stop for the night after a day in the saddle. Good restaurants and hot springs are a terrific way to end the day. Be advised that unless you stay at one of the motels that have hot springs on their property you will have to pay to soak. We stayed at the Box Canyon Lodge one time and that is one I could recommend. If anyone else has recommendations please leave a comment with your thoughts. Thanks.

An Aside

For those of you who have been here before and are surprised to see the change in the layout, let me explain. I just updated to a new version of WordPress, the blog application I’m using, and it blew away all my customizations. Now it’g going to take me a while to make this thing look the way I had it. Bear with me.

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 2

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 2

All right, today we’re in for some riding. The proposed route covers about 350 miles, and brings the group back to Gunnison for a second night. This is a good choice of roads and I have no alternatives to suggest. Here’s the map. Click the link to see the map in larger size.

Gunnison Day Ride

The day starts heading west out of Gunnison on US 50. This soon runs alongside Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is the reservoir created by the dam above the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At the dam, US 50 continues west but our group is heading northwest on CO 92. You cross the dam to get to the north side of the river and then cruise the twisty road running along the north rim of the Black Canyon. Be sure to stop and peer down into the canyon at some of the pull-outs.

Then the road leaves the canyon and heads north through Crawford. Now, Crawford is where rocker Joe Cocker lives, and his wife used to run a biker-friendly restaurant here, but that has closed. CO 92 meets CO 133 at Hotchkiss and a right turn takes you to Paonia and up over McClure Pass. One sidetrip you’ll definitely want to make once you get over the pass is to Marble. It’s not far and the road is paved. Check that McClure Pass link for more about Marble. You can easily spend a couple hours here, though, so that will add to the length of the day. But hey, it’s summer. There are a lot of daylight hours.

I also challenge you to pass the old coke ovens at Redstone without stopping. I’m sorry, this stuff is just too interesting.

Just past Carbondale, CO 133 meets CO 82. A left takes you down to Glenwood Springs, a right goes to Aspen. We’re heading to the right. For some people, Aspen itself would be the draw, but we’re on motorcycles so what really beckons is Independence Pass. This is one of the best in all of Colorado. In fact, that picture I use on the home page of motorcyclecolorado.com is taken along Independence Pass. It also closes for the winter and at the time Steve and crew are coming it will probably only have been open for a couple weeks. Here’s hoping no late spring blizzard delays the snowplows.

Independence Pass comes down at Twin Lakes and then joins US 24 a little further on. This is the road the group came in on the day before so from here they retrace their route down through Buena Vista to Poncha Springs. Having headed west yesterday from Poncha Springs over Monarch Pass, today the group will continue south on US 285. This road crosses Poncha Pass, which is a nice ride, but is not comparable to so many Colorado passes, which is why I don’t have a page about it on the website.

At Saguache they leave US 285 and pick up CO 114. This road connects with US 50 just east of Gunnison and the end of the day’s ride. In doing so, it crosses North Pass, which, like Poncha Pass, is a lovely ride but not as high or spectacular as so many Colorado passes. Still, it’s well worth the ride, especially if your other option is backtracking on roads you’ve already ridden.

So, at 350 miles, this is a pretty long ride in terms of hours, especially if you make stops at Marble and/or Redstone. For one thing, Independence Pass is very slow going, but you wouldn’t want to rush it anyway. It’s too spectacular. The highway along the rim of the Black Canyon is also slow going. Of course, passing through Aspen is going to slow you down. But it’s definitely doable, especially if you know you’ve got your night’s accommodations covered in advance. So ride. Ride a lot! Enjoy.

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 1

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 1

After arriving in Denver the night before, Steve and crew will pick up their rental bikes the next morning from Colorado Tourbike in Aurora and head for Gunnison as their first night’s stop.

The plan is to head out of Denver on US 285, up and over Kenosha Pass, across South Park to Fairplay. That’s a nice ride. The view out over South Park from on top of Kenosha Pass is gorgeous. Crossing South Park is a very pleasant ride, although you do sometimes get strong winds that make it a bit less enjoyable.

From Fairplay they turn north on CO 9, over Hoosier Pass, definitely a good ride. The road comes down through Breckenridge and on to Frisco, where they will pick up I-70. After a quick jaunt west on I-70 to Copper Mountain, their route goes south on CO 91 over Fremont Pass to Leadville. This route is not as scenic as many of the Colorado passes are, but it takes you past the Climax molybdenum mine, which is very interesting, even if it’s not beautiful.

Continuing south from Leadville, they reach Buena Vista and rejoin US 285, which they follow to Poncha Springs. From Poncha Springs, US 50 will take them over Monarch Pass and on to Gunnison. Total distance around 250 miles. Total time, counting getting out of Denver but not counting stops, probably around six hours. Probably plenty for a good first day, considering jet lag and all.

Here’s a small map showing the route. Click this link for a larger map.

Denver to Gunnison, Day 1

Alternate Route

Now, you’ll notice that there are routes marked in two colors. The yellow route is what Steve is proposing. I’m offering the blue route as an alternative. Here’s why.

You’ll notice first of all that the blue route heads straight out I-70. Normally I would be the first to avoid the interstate in favor of the two-lanes but there are several reasons why this might be the exception.

First, it can hard for those of us who have ridden and driven I-70 west out of Denver countless times over many years to recognize this, but compared to the interstate in most other parts of the country, I-70 through the mountains of Colorado is downright spectacular. This road takes you up through the mountain communities of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, and Silver Plume and it ain’t ugly. Attractions along here include the Argo Mill in Idaho Springs and the Georgetown Loop Railroad that runs up from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back.

US 285 out of Denver, on the other hand, is rapidly becoming a freeway on its own. It is now a controlled access divided highway all the way up past Conifer and continuing. It narrows to two lanes eventually, and is a nice ride, but my point is that it’s not just a choice between two lanes or interstate. You’re getting some freeway either way.

The biggest attraction of this alternate route, however, is Loveland Pass. As you continue west on I-70 past Silver Plume you reach the Eisenhower Tunnel, but just before the tunnel is the turnoff to US 6 going up and over Loveland Pass. This is the kind of pass you come to Colorado to ride. It comes down to Dillon on the other side, which, via the tunnel, is about a 20 minute trip. Over the pass is at least an hour but worth it.

From Dillon the blue route stays on I-70 past Copper Mountain, over Vail Pass, down through Vail and on to the turn-off to Minturn. Again, this may be interstate but Vail Pass ain’t ugly either. At Minturn, you would head south on US 24, over Tennessee Pass and on over to Leadville. At that point the blue route rejoins the yellow route. If you’re going to choose between Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass, my choice would be Tennessee Pass, which is another reason for this recommendation.

So that’s Day 1, with an alternative. Now, Steve’s group is going to be small, probably no more than four. Generally, with a small group like that you will want to stay together. In a larger group, though, such as our OFMC group, which has grown considerably, you might even want to split up, with each person taking the route they find more appealing. You could regroup in Leadville.

OK. Day 2 coming up next.

Coming Up Soon: New Zealand Rides The Rockies

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

All right, this is going to be great. A couple times now I’ve mentioned Steve from New Zealand who is coming here in 2009 with a few friends to do some motorcycle riding. Steve found www.motorcyclecolorado.com and found it helpful in his planning and sent me a few questions. At my urging he has sent me his rough first draft of an itinerary and what I’m going to do over the next few weeks is show their proposed route, any alternatives I might suggest, and discuss the places they will be going. I’ll also give daily mileage and estimated time. It is my hope that this will be helpful to other bikers planning their Colorado trips.

I’ve been trying to write this blog on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I figure to devote one post to each day of their trip. Steve and crew are planning 10 days of riding, with 2 of those days in Utah. I probably won’t have as much to contribute on the Utah days so I may combine those two into one post.

The first thing that struck us when my wife and I pulled out the map and started looking at their proposed routes was how a couple of those days seemed a bit overly ambitious. Not so much in terms of miles but in terms of the time they would take. Covering 300 miles in one day is easy on the flatlands but when you’re negotiating switchbacks and getting stuck behind campers and semis you can find 300 to be almost impossible. I mentioned this to Steve and he made some changes to their plans, but I’ll discuss this along the way, whenever appropriate.

By the way, one other thing that is somewhat off-topic: I have had an ongoing battle on this blog with spammers and had to turn comments off for awhile. I would really be pleased if any of you out there reading this has any input into these day routes. All of us know more than any one of us. But if the spam gets too bad again — and it has already started — I may have no choice but to turn comments off again. If that happens, please email me your comments at ken at motorcyclecolorado.com and I’ll post them myself. In the meantime, I’m working with my web host to set up a javascript that requires you to prove you’re a human before posting. I tried doing that before, but the script would not work with the way the host had their server set up. They tell me it should work now. Keep your fingers crossed.

Motorcycle Rentals Seem Fairly Limited

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Another question I got from Steve in New Zealand, who is coming to Colorado to ride with some friends in 2009, was “Are there any other pure renters (as opposed to tour companies) of similar style bikes?” Steve and the group are planning to rent from www.tourbikes.com.

That was something I’d never really thought about so I did some research. First I checked to see what selection they have at tourbikes.com. It’s a pretty wide selection. They have a bunch of BMW touring bikes but they also have some Harleys, some Hondas, a Yamaha FJR 1300, and a mix of dual sport bikes. All in all, something that would probably suit anybody.

Then I started looking at the others. L2 Motorcycle Rentals has mostly Harleys, but they also have some Gold Wings. Mainly Harleys, though.

Not surprisingly, EagleRider of Denver has only Harleys. It also appears that Moturis also is exclusively Harley.

I list a number of other rental companies on the motorcycle rentals page but can’t check the rest of them out very easily because they don’t appear to have website. So in answer to Steve’s question, no it does not appear that there are other renters of similar style bikes in the area.

If I’m wrong, and someone tells me more than I know at this point I’ll be glad to post the info here and on the rentals page. Thanks in advance.

An Intriguing Little Item

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

I need to give credit to Big Cab Daddy for this, I ran across it on his blog, Returning Motorcyclist.

What would you think of a little device that sticks to the top of your helmet and, powered by the wind, gives off a flashing light to make you more visible to other drivers?

That’s exactly what the HJC Wind Light is. What the sales blurb says is:

Simply affix the wind light to your helmet using the adhesive tape provided and let the wind do the rest? As you ride, the wind goes through the front of the intake grill causing the internal turbine to power 8 bright LED lights. Active at speeds as low as 25mph. Wind powered, no batteries required!

The thing costs about $30. Here’s a picture:
HJC Wind Light

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has had a chance to try this thing out. Maybe I’ll have to be the one to do that. It looks like it could be a pretty good gadget.

Need-To-Know Info About Pass Closures

Monday, February 11th, 2008

I got an email from Steve in New Zealand asking about early and late season road closures. He asked:

I found your website and it is REALLY great. Myself and 3 or 4 friends are coming over from New Zealand in 2009 for a 12 day bike ride. One thing which would really help overseas people is to know which roads are NOT passable during the “early” months (ie Apr/May/Jun). We are planning on being there the first 2 weeks of June, so it would be very handy to know which roads are NOT passable, given “normal” weather conditions. Obviously it is not possible to predict the exact weather in advance but knowing that certain roads are likely impassable means that detours can be pre-planned (where practical of course).

I did some checking and found six roads that the Colorado Department of Transportation says close for the winter:

    US 34 over Trail Ridge Road

    CO 82 over Independence Pass

    CO 5 to the top of Mount Evans

    COS 1 to the top of Pike’s Peak

    GCR 12 over Kebler Pass

    FR 209, 306 over Cottonwood Pass

For more info on this subject, check the What You Need page.

To Catch A Helmet Thief – Via Ebay

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Here’s a good one. I just saw a news dispatch that a motorcyclist in Pennsylvania had an expensive custom helmet stolen off his bike. He went looking on Ebay for a replacement and what do you suppose he found? His stolen helmet for sale.

The seller was charged with theft and convicted. Now the owner is waiting to get his helmet back from the police. He may have a bit of a wait yet. The convicted thief has appealed and the helmet is still being held as evidence.

New Page Up On Colorado 165

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Back in August I got an email from SECO saying

I can’t hardly believe that you have Bishop’s Castle listed and not hwy 165 (the hwy that runs past the Castle from Rye to McKenzie Jct)?

Near the Bigelow Divide has to be the most awesome double hairpin in the state.

I had ridden that road but it was long before I built the website and I hadn’t been back. Well, this got me fired up so about a month later we went back there and I shot pictures and gathered information. Unfortunately, I’ve been very busy so it only now that I managed to get the stuff up on the site.

Here it is, go check it out.

http://www.motorcyclecolorado.com/colorado_165_west_from_colorado_city.htm

If anyone else has thoughts as to what ought to be added let me know. I may not get it up right away but I will get it done.