How 3 days in Colorado turned into 7…
It’s been a few days (over a week, whoops!) since we’ve posted a blog update, because we’ve been too busy falling in love with Colorado. I’ll try to summarize as best I can, but spare me some fawning along the way.
We left Kansas on the morning of June 14th (day 11) and rolled into Colorado. We had to stop at a welcome center to plot our route, as we didn’t have a Colorado map ahead of time. We essentially picked a few hot spots, traced the scenic routes on the map, and decided to play it by ear. (Little did we know that would put us 4 days behind schedule. But what a fantastic way to spend those 4 days!
We got into Manitou Springs, a quaint/touristy mountain town right outside Colorado Springs, and decided to get a B&B room since we had a few days to settle in, and we were celebrating our anniversary on the next day. We unpacked and headed to dinner. We parked next to a Harley motorcycle, and chatted with the owners Brad and Gloria for a half an hour. They are in their 50s, and have been riding since before we were born. By the time we parted ways, we were convinced we had to adjust our route North to include Rocky Mountain National Park, which was described by Brad as “Stupid Beautiful” (spoiler, he was right).
We hung around Manitou Springs for the next few days. We Hiked the Garden of the Gods, Rode Pikes Peak (amazing!) and had a blast at my old friend Zach’s wedding on the 16th. On June 17th (day 14) we made our way to a campsite just outside of Denver.
Leaving there we made the scenic drive north to the Rocky Mountain National Park. That entire day all I could say was “This is the best motorcycling I have ever done!”. One thrilling turn after the next, incredible views, and a million other bikes to wave at – they are everywhere out here, and we fit right in.
Rocky Mt National Park was – as advertised – stupid beautiful. It’s more-or-less a straight drive through, up and over the pass (camping is only allowed in the designated sites – sad face) Curve after curve took us up and high into the mountain tundra, and where we had been baking in the 90+ degree heat less than 2 hours before, we all of a sudden stopping to dig out thermal gear and firing up the BMW’s grip heaters. The views can’t be described so I won’t try, but I’m pretty sure Jess muted her headset after the 97th time I said “wooow”. Jess saw a moose (she claims) through the trees in an open field, right when I couldn’t safely stop to look. But at the top we both freaked out when we saw the first Elk. A small female trotting along the road. The next turn we took floored us – at 12,000 surrounded by snow drifts we saw a massive herd of Elk hanging out 100 yards or so from the road. We endured the cold long enough to get some pictures, stare and freak out the way only a couple of southerners can when they see wild Elk for the first time. THEN we camped in the park while more Elk wandered through the campsite munching on grass. It was other-worldly for both of us, and something I am so glad we got to share together.
We knew we had spent a couple of our spare days by adding this extra park to the trip, but we both agreed it was well worth it. We set out the next morning with the intent to cover as many miles as possible and start working our way towards the next big destination, the Grand Canyon. That was going great until 1) we got missed a turn and drove 30 mins the wrong way, 2) the right way was a dirt road, 3) Half way through that very long and gorgeous dirt road I saw a camp ground right on the river that had a white-water rafting operation adjacent to it and I absolutely had to stop. We had already picked our campsite for the night and decided to stay when we found out we were too late in the day to go rafting. We opted to stay anyway, and Jess pointed out to me that we had only covered a whopping 60 miles of our route. Yeesh.
The next morning we were REALLY determined to make up some miles and set out at a record 25 mins late. “Late” is a relative term, but we never make it on the road at the time we mean to, we’re slow morning people anyway and breaking camp/packing the bike is a series of chores. This was the closest we had made it to leaving at our goal time.
We had an amazing and scenic route marked out through the Rockies on our map but realized we had to get moving, so we decided to hop on the interstate and chug away the miles, abandoning our wandering route. That’s when we met Chris.
I pulled into a parking lot to stretch and get some water at the intersection we had marked to bail from our route. From this point, we would bee-line to interstate for some boring (but efficient) miles out of the state.
A middle-aged guy with a light German accent pulled up to chat (everybody wants to chat with us, that’s a whole blog post itself). We learned that he has 6 bikes, rides constantly, and has been on every road in the west. Before I knew what was going on we had 3 of our state maps out, I was taking diligent notes, crossing out or highlighting routes, and suddenly, we had our next 4 days of riding laid out to the hour. Where to get gas, where to camp, which roads would take our breath away, or be boring but necessary. He compared the new route with the “cheat route” we were about to turn onto, and declared “about an hour longer – an hour well spent”. He knew what he was doing. The roads he added for us are ones I will remember the rest of my life, and certainly come back to.
Each day in Colorado I’ve told Jess “This is THE BEST motorcycling I have ever done”, and each day it has been true. The mountain passes are all so different, challenging and rewarding. We’ve seen things we didn’t even know existed (Red Mountain has gold mines…and its red), met a ton of great people, and we have hardly even touched what Colorado and the Rockies have to offer. It almost feels irreverent to ride into some of the places we’ve been this week, look around, and leave again. The famous John Muir quote is going to resonate with us in a different way after this trip; “The mountains are calling, and I must go”.
Tomorrow we move further west, to the Grand Canyon!
Jess on our Anniversary:
Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park:
Wild Elk in Timber Creek National Park:
The biggest dandelions Jess has ever seen, Crawford State Park (recommended by Chris the German)
Red Mountain Pass, AKA The Million Dollar Highway