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Colorado July 23-26

By Ray Parden

The trip for me begins with a flight to Denver from New Orleans. This was a spur of the moment trip, which means we decided just a little over a month a head, so I could still get a cheap flight out.  David and I plan to ride to Ouray where my sister lives and then on to Cripple Creek. The last day of our ride we plan to ride up to Mount Evans, which I believe has the highest elevation road in the U.S.

Yesterday I received an email from a customer of mine that lives in Fort Collins Colorado, which is very close to Loveland, telling me of a hit and run accident that killed a motorcyclist who was parked on the side of the road. Motorcycling can be a dangerous sport, we have to constantly aware of the hazards, like four wheeled motorists (cagers), deer, as well as other distractions, but I had never thought of getting killed while stopped on the side of the road, which is something we do quite often.

I was wearing my “Hammond Harley” t-shirt on the flight out and as often happens a guy sitting near by in the waiting area asked me if I had the bike to go with the shirt. I told him about my bike and that I was on my way to Colorado for a three day ride. I asked him about his bike and he told me the story of how he got his bike. He had a good friend that lived in Kansas that called him and told him that he had put a deposit down on a new Harley and that he should do the same so they could ride together. Any way this guy says okay and goes out and buys a new 1200 Sportster.  A few weeks later he gets a call from his friend telling him he had to cancel the order for his bike because his wife told him that he was too clumsy to ride a motorcycle and that he had a choice of the motorcycle or her.  He chose to stay married.  The guy at the airport told me he calls his friend several a year thanking him for convincing him to buy a bike.  I know exactly how he feels.

We did pretty good getting started on this trip and got away around nine.  We decided to take the interstate down to Denver since we needed to get to Montrose by five.  By the time we made to 285 and stopped to gas up it we realized the day was going to be a hot one.   We made good time until we came over a hill to see a long line of cars going down the hill to Johnson Village.  We were now in bumper to bumper traffic that was hardly moving looking at a line of cars stretched out for a few miles.  Luck was with us however, because we were stopped right next to a gravel road and after a few minutes a good old boy in a beat up pickup truck stopped at the turn off to the gravel road and told us it by-passed the bridge that was ahead of us which was partially washed out causing the traffic back-up.  It didn’t take us long to make a decision on taking the gravel road because it was hot and lunch time was fast approaching, we made our way cautiously through several miles of this back county road past ranches and farms until we made it back to the highway near Centerville which had a small Thai food/ice cream eatery.  We ordered the egg rolls but they were more like little spring rolls and not very filling, but that’s OK, we ordered ice cream cones for dessert.

Morrow Point Reservoir

Blue Mesa Reservoir

The ride down highway 50 to Montrose was still hot but scenic.  Blue Mesa Reservoir was beautiful as we rode along the shoreline with the mountains surrounding us.  We were going to suprise our mother who  now lives Montrose and we also hoped to meet up with our uncle Juan from Wilmer Alabama, who we thought was making the trip out west again on his Harley.  When we got to mom’s house she was surprised, but Juan had been delayed going up to Mount Evans, so we would not see him.  We later learned that Juan had made the trip out on a Suzuki dual sport bike.  He really is a hardy traveler, camping along the way and traveling alone, not bad for a 70 year old.   After coffee at mom’s we headed on to Ouray where my sister lives and we were staying the night.  Ouray is a really cool little town tucked away in a canyon with steep mountains on all sides.  There’s a hot spring there and it’s quite common to see deer, elk and ever bears wandering the neighborhood.  Lee Ann our sister had a beer for us when we arrived and we had a relaxing smoke before walking across the street to another transplanted southerners New Orleans style restaurant for some fried catfish.

Ouray

Ouray

The next morning sis made breakfast for us and we got a pretty decent start out of town, traveling highway 550, one of the prettiest and scariest, due to the sheer cliffs, parts of our journey through Red Mountain Pass.

Sean, David and Ray

Sean, David and Ray

We made it to Durango for lunch where another one of our sister’s son,  Sean has settled.  He was born and raised in Louisiana, and felt the call of the west as well.  It was good to see him and he was looking well.  The barbecue lunch we had was pretty damn good too, but we couldn’t visit long because it was still a good distance to Cripple Creek our destination for the evening.

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Not far out of Durango the sky started to darken and we knew we would soon have to stop and put on our rain gear.  We stopped under a canopy of a closed service company, took a cigar break and put on our rain suits.  The rest of the day proved to be quite wet.  We rode highway 160 through Wolf Creek Pass in the rain.  Unfortunately the beauty of our surroundings was muted by our need to concentrate on riding the twisting road in a steady rain, it was still quite beautiful and sometimes a little scary as we paid close attention to keeping our traction on the slippery road.   Check out this song by C. W. McCall “Wolf Creek Pass”

Rain gear time as we look toward Wolf Creek Pass

Rain gear time as we look toward Wolf Creek Pass

We finally made it through the pass but there was still quite a ways to go to get to Cripple Creek.  We stopped for gas on the edge of the San Luis Valley, which seemed like the middle of no where and it really is.  We were warned that often the troopers are out giving tickets to speeders along the long straight stretch of highway that cuts across the valley, but there was a Jamboree going on that weekend in a nearby town so  most would probably be there.  We made good time through the valley but it seemed like it was never going to end as we traveled on through the rain, finally we made to Poncha Springs where we turned east on 50, a winding road following the Arkansas river.  After a while you get used to the rhythm of the rainy road and start to notice things that you would never be aware of traveling by car.  The smells of the road are one of the most enjoyable aspects of riding motorcycles and as we traveled along the river in the rain I noticed a familiar smell from my youth, the smell of mud, and as I looked down at the river I could see that it was now reddish brown from all the sediment being washed into the river by the rain.  We followed that muddy river for what seemed like forever and as the rain hammered us we watched the muddy river rise.

The day was growing short and we were unsure of the road to take to Cripple Creek, fortunately David talked to a fellow that told us of a shortcut which we were lucky enough to find.  My brother David has a great sense of direction most of the time and that day it did not fail us.  We found the narrow little road to Cripple Creek that again seemed like it went on forever, taking us pass ranches and over more cattle guards than I could count.  It was still raining and starting to get dark as we climbed through the hilly mountains.  Up ahead we saw a white foggy area and when we got there, there the ground was white with what we though was snow along the edge of the road, but someone told us later it was probably hail.  Shortly before making it to Cripple Creek we saw our first wild life as David narrowly missed a deer as it crossed the road.

Cripple Creek Colorado

Cripple Creek Colorado

Cripple Creek is in the middle of no where, you have to be going there to get there.  We rolled in around nine, checked in to our rooms in the hotel on top of the hill and soon headed to  town for some food and entertainment.  Cripple Creek is an old mining town that now has gambling.  There wasn’t much in the way of restaurants open by the time we made it to town, but we found a greasy spoon in one of the casinos where I had a thin tough steak and David had some fried chicken.  We wandered around after that and gambled enough to get a free drink or two, but we were rudely made aware that you can’t take drinks from one establishment to another, as I was getting ready to try my hand at a card table a waitress came alone as literally snatched my drink out of my hand and afterward told me the drinking rules, so I ordered another drink from her, but left before she could get back with it.  We wandered up the road to the only bar in town where a rock band was playing for a crowd of five people.  There was a drunk black chick there that was singing the blues with the band which she was not a part of, and needless to say she was pretty bad, but I don’t think any of the five people there had the heart to tell her, and actually she was the most entertaining thing in town that Saturday night.

Sunday morning we rode down two the big casino for our free breakfast buffet which was pretty good, then headed north on highway 67 which was a nice ride to Woodland Park.  The farther north we went the darker and cloudier it got.  Somewhere in north Pike National forest we had to stop and get our rain gear on again and by the time we made it through Pine and back to 285 the rain was coming down pretty good.  The ride on 285 and the interstate towards Mount Evans was pretty intense, there was a lot of traffic and David was in his type A, get there quick mode.  By the time we made it to 70 heading west I knew there would be not Mount Evans this day, the rain was coming down hard, the traffic was heavy and I was thinking, “crap, where do we go from here”.  Luckily David knew to get off on highway 6, a nice twisty road that heads back into Golden Colorado.  Right at the bottom of the off ramp there is a little bar called Kermitt’s Road House which proved to be quite and oasis from the pouring rain, not just for us as the place was packed with other soaked riders that day.  We were lucky and found a little table to sit at and I enjoyed a really good green chili hamburger.  The riders there were all friendly and tales of our journeys were swapped with  with our fellow riders in the storm.  After about an hour of rest we realized the rain was not going to stop, so we donned our gear again and headed out.  There were a lot of riders on the road, some with no helmets or any kind of rain gear passed us looking like beat down dogs as they rode, I know they were freezing and could hardly see the road ahead, but I guess it’s better to push ahead than pull over and stand in the rain.

By the time we made it to Golden the weather broke and we had sun again for the final leg of our journey, we had made it home safely with no incidents, another fun and sucessful ride.

Here’s a good article about riding in the rain at motorcyclecruiser.com

Have fun, stay safe, and keep the rubber side down…

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