Saturday, September 22, 2007

Checking out the Aspen's Color Change via Independence Pass

Temps from low 60s to high 80s depending on where in the mountains you were. Sunny with very few clouds and the mountainsides ablaze with the changing leaves of the Aspen as they turn yellow in anticipation of Fall here in Colorado.

Trying to work in a couple of the bigger passes before Winter shuts them down, I selected Independence Pass which is what CO82 uses to cut through from US24 near Leadville (Exit 195 on I-70) and the tourist trap of Aspen at the other end. The GC factor (gawking cagers) factor was not too bad as I made my way on the I-70 slab after having cut across denver on I-25 to the Leadville, CO91, exit. I had to stop short of Leadville to don my riding jacket's liner as 60 degrees in the mountain couple with highway speeds, can get quite chilly! : ) It's good that I did, since I stopped at a scenic area turnout where I grabbed these pics.

Just East of Exit 195 before Leadville on I-70

Copper Mountain Ski Resort, sans snow.

I got on CO91 and shortly afterwards was in the town of Leadville, hoping for a readily available gas station. Turns out there's three of them, two on the North side of the town and one on the south so I was good to go. (40mpg, includes 72 miles of commuting this week).

I kept going past Leadville (which by the way is where the National Mine Museum is located) and got on East 24 which I took a short ways until I came to CO82 and Balltown. I headed West on CO82 and the GC factor increased considerable on this two lane road as the folks had definitely come out to watch the leaves on the Aspen change colors. I must admit it was quite the brilliant display of color on the sides of the road, the mountains on both sides of the road and bordering the several lakes I passed. At times, it looked like the sides of the mountains were coated with yellow fire.

Near Twin Lakes, CO

Some time after I passed through Twin Lakes, the road started climbing and twisting its way up the mountains towards Independence pass.

I arrived at Independence Pass just short of Noon I think. So I think I made pretty good time from Denver. The place was not too crowded and the weather continued to be gorgeous.

The way down from Independence pass was quite twisting and steep. For a short while there I had the road to myself and was able to ride a few miles above the 30mph speed limit, it was quite nice. Then I caught up with a long line of cagers and resigned myself to moseying my way into Aspen.

I found Aspen the typical Colorado tourist town, it was kind of crowded so I hurried my way through to it's northern end where I found a bus parking lot where I stopped for a quick sandwich and a break. I'd picked the parking lot because I spotted this interesting looking church steeple nearby.

Now, the mountainsides bordering Aspen are truly beautiful so don't let my description of Aspen as a tourist trap dissuade you from riding there. Tourist traffic is quite heavy though, so keep your eyes open!

Staying on CO82, you end up passing eventually through Glenwood Springs I believe. All I know is once you get out of this town you get on I-70 heading East towards Denver and into some of the most beautiful canyons bordering the slab for quite a few miles! My old camera could not come close to rendering with justice the beauty of these canyonlands bordering the interstate highway. Definitely a must see! My head was on a continuous swivel trying to take it all in, gorgeous!

Of course, being the Interstate, not too many safe spots to stop and take pictures. The rest areas are too low and too close to the canyon walls to allow good shots too. Finally I spotted a line of traffic ones which gave me a safe spot to stop and shoot these pics. I hope you get a faint idea of the incredible views along this stretch of the slab.

After I cleared the canyons, it was boring slab time. Nothing untoward or exciting, just slab riding all the way back to Denver. The route is still quite scenic, it's just that after those canyons and the pass, it kind of paled in comparison you know?

I did, due to the warmth of the day, get to test out a water sprayer rig I had hastily hooked up to the right side of my motorcycle. It worked great, just a 1/2 jug with a battery-powered sprayer and hose. I would spray my sleeves and chest area and soak them with water and the wicking shirt I was wearing underneath at this point would cool me off. It felt great and I did not have to stop to wet things down! I just have to come up with a better system of securing the sprayer gun than just letting it sit in my lap when not secured to the right system case!

I tanked up at the Morrison exit as I rode on C-470 from the I-70 slab. (57MPG!)

Maria did great as usual, the new boots were fine for the weather and we racked up about 490 miles total of riding. Another great Colorado ride.

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