Monday, October 15, 2007

My First Overnight Ride with Maria


The family was in California this weekend and I could not go due to work schedules. This left me by myself over the weekend so I figured it was a good time to get in a long ride with an overnight stay.

After some dithering on Saturday morning due to some iffy weather reports, I decided to go for the trip anyways and left the house at around 0630 or so. I made good time winging my way around the southern edge of the Denver Metro area and riding West on I-70 towards Grand Junction. Glen Canyon was gorgeous as ever as I rode by but I took no pictures, my poor little camera just cannot do it justice in such confined spaces with such magnificent rock canyon displays.

Here's a picture of a small park on the way to Grand Junction, I think it was the Colorado River State Park:

As I neared Grand Junction and my turnoff to head South On US50, I spotted this nice rock formation to whet your appetite:

The exit was immediately after the above picture so of course I missed it and had to go down to the next exit and turn around. Oh well. : )

US50 takes you down towards Delta and Montrose where you junction with US550 which takes you down to Ouray, a nice ride by the way. Once you get to Ouray you are at the north end of the Million Dollar Highway. It's a very twisting and beautiful ride, this road, but I am not sure I personally would have called it the million dollar road in terms of scenic panoramas. Mind you, there were some but not as much as I expected. Perhaps it was the heavily forested roadsides, or the overcast skies I was traveling under; I was not "overwhelmed" by the ride. Beautiful motorcycle riding regardless! Here's some pics:

Near the Summit of Molas Pass

Two major passes are crossed by riding US550

I got to Durango in the late afternoon and after a brief break at a park, decided to press onto Cortez which is about another hour to the west nearer to the border of Utah. The plan being to overnight there and hit Four Corners and points beyond the next day before heading back home. It was 500 miles from my house to the hotel in Cortez. I had been thinking about steak all day while riding and satisfied my hunger at a restaurant near the motel called Shilohs. Good steak, good service.

Had I been thinking and planning ahead, I could have documented a 500 miles LongDistanceRider qualification and gotten the patch later!

Sacked out early, having spent nearly 11 hrs in the saddle.


Woke up before 0400 with a huge sinus headache, I never sleep well in strange beds and the motel I stayed at in Cortez, CO was no exception. I was unable to get back to sleep so I crossed the street to the Denny's and had their meatlover's breakfast special since I was not planning on doing lunch during the day's ride.

Finally, I could wait no longer, and set off at 0530 towards Four Corners which was 38 miles away on US160W. Now, it's dark and cold so the electric vest and grips were on keeping me nice and toasty. It's quite dark out there in the desert as you ride along trying not to overshoot your highbeam light. I could see large dark shapes to either side of me as I rode which were rock formations I assume. I was more worried about deer since it was nearing dawn and they tend to move then. But either the terrain did not suit them or the fact that it was elk/deer hunting season in the area had driven them all away. I did not see elk or deer during the whole trip!

I got to Four Corners with no problems but found it closed. I had read where it opened at 0700hrs and that's when I arrived. I pressed on, later I found out they were under winter operating hours which meant they opened at 0800hrs. Either ways I was not wasting time waiting for them!

I soon crossed over the AZ state line in the dark and as dawn rose I was riding on US160 through the teeny tiny settlement of Teec Nos Pos heading West. Not much out but desert and some beautiful mesas in the distance. As the sun gained altitude, I could see further and further out. It's quite beautiful if a bit deserted countryside. The road was long and straight as most Arizona highways are reputed to be. Maria kept wanting to go faster and faster and I kept reminding myself to not let her earn me another performance award from the local tax collectors!

We made it to Kayenta, AZ just fine. This is the town to the south of Monument Valley. Here's a pic of a rock formation you see just before getting to Kayenta. The sun was hitting it just right you know?

The following pics are in and around Monument Valley. I entered the valley from the Southern Side and the light at the time was no good for shooting. So I headed as far east as I could which led me to the Navajo Tribal Park Center where I paid $5 to find out that the "trails" provided for tourists to get real close to the rock formations were not good for my poor RT. Damn near dumped it a couple of times before I decided to turn around and head back towards pavement. Now, if I had been on a GS, that would have been different.

I was a bit dissapointed that I could not get closer to the main rock formations that form Monument valley but as I headed North on US163, there were plenty of spots alongside the paved road that afforded nice shots of some of the formations:

First major rock formation one sees when entering the valley from South

The requisite border signs

At Tribal Center Parking Lot

Northbound on UT163

On road leading to Tribal Center

More pics from Northbound UT163

The view South as one exits Monument Valley

Once I exited the Monument Valley I headed for Mexican Hat, Utah which was close by, less than an hour I believe. The way there, by the way, is beautiful canyonland with sweeping views of the area.

Here's some pics of the rock formation known as Mexican Hat for obvious reasons. My wife and I had stayed nearby at the lodge by the bridge that leads into town from the South. I took Maria closer to the rock as you can see. The dirt trails here were not too bad and the RT did fine on the one you see.

I continued on North on UT163 and after a brief detour onto UT261 and Gooseneck Park which I believe is part of the Glen Canyon NRA where I got the below pictures. This park features great canyons carved in a serpentine fashion by the Colorado River. It's served as the backdrop scenery for several western movies, including one of my favorites: Fort Apache with John Wayne.

Gooseneck Park, Utah

I then left the park, rode the 11 miles back and got back on UT163 and came upon the town of Bluff, Utah near where 163 junctions with US191 and found the Apache Twins rock formation. The idea was to take US191 and head towards Blanding and Monticello and from there take I-70 Home.

Apache Twins

Big Rock Formation next to the Apache Twins

I got to Monticello, Utah around 1230, tanked up and called up my loving wife who told me there were reports of snow on I-70! Oh Oh. I spotted an Internet Cafe across the street and sure enough, the webcams provided by CO DOT confirmed conditions were crap for a motorcycle near the Eisenhower tunnel which is where I-70 crosses the Continental Divide. So much for heading home in that direction!

Some studying of google maps told me to head back to US491 (which happened to junction with US191 at Monticello) and back to Cortez where I had started from this morning. This highway used to be numbered US666 but I guess the people were leery of living near something with "the number of the beast" so it was renumbered to US491.

I got back to Cortez, Colorado around 1330 and from here it was a marathon ride to try and get home before snow hit the Denver area. Although the first few hours of riding on US160 eastbound were sunny and cool, I could see some wicked cloud formations to the North, representing the snow advisories that were blanketing that part of Colorado.

As I neared Pagosa Springs, Colorado I had to traverse Wolf Creek Pass, as you can see below, the snow flurries were quite evident at this altitude. The snow was not sticking though so while it was cold, it was still not bad for riding. The nearby ski resort, Wolf Creek, turns out to be the highest located ski resort in the state!

Rain clouds were forming to my front as well. I remember vividly riding past towards Alamosa and Blanca watching a huge bank of clouds slamming into Blanca Peak, completely hiding the upper third of the mountain. The Sangre de Cristo mountains all had their own crown of clouds and you could only see their lower halves. The skies by now were gray and solidly overcast.

yep, that's snow falling

I kept pressing on and when I got to Alamosa I figured I was home free. All I had to do was get to Walsenburg which was on I-25 and bebop on home via superslab. Well, it was not to be.

Rain started soon after I left Alamosa and I discovered that there was La Veta Pass between myself and the superslab. Damn. The rain was not bad but as I neared the summit I kept a close eye on the thermometer and watched it steadily drop to a low of 37.9 degrees. Visibility was crap, roads were wet, splashback everywhere from the cages as they passed me since I had slowed way down in order to make it up and down the pass safely. I am sure the passing cagers must have been saying things like: "Look at that idiot on the motorcycle in this weather!". I agreed with them.

It was not a fun time, the thought of ice kept coming to me but there was no turning back since it was same crap the way I had come. No way I was stopping up there at altitude either with night approaching!

I was finally passed by a semi-trailer and I tucked in behind it. Not too close of course but kept it in view and more importantly kept the tracks it made on the wet pavement in view and made sure to ride in those tracks since I knew for sure there'd be no ice forming there after all those wheels had gone over it!

Following the semi-trailer, I got safely down the pass and into the town of Walsenburg. That was some pretty scary riding I must admit. Had I known about this pass, I probably would have stayed overnight in Alamosa. As it was, weather reports I obtained from my loving wife while gasing up in Walsenburg led me to quit trying to get home.

I got a cheap room at a cheap motel called "The Anchor". Dinner was Carl Jr's burger and fries and I was glad to get it. There were reports of freezing rain in Colorado Springs and I knew that it could only be worse North of that city near Monument where historically there's always ice/snow related accidents in bad weather.


Woke up before 0500 and saw that the motel parking lot was dry, I hurriedly packed everything back up onto Maria, geared up and was out the door towards the I-25 superslab. The pavement was nice and dry all the way past Colorado Springs and once I was near Monument, it turned wet of course. It also turned very cold, later I found out it had been 33 degrees. However, I was not as worried since traffic was pretty heavy all around me and I figured I'd see someone slide before I did. Kept a nice wide distance from everyone and was definitely not the fastest guy on the road that early morning!

Made it home safe at 0645 with the sunrise. A total of 1268 miles ridden from Saturday Morning to Monday Morning. Maria did great as usual. In fact, that TBS I did before I left seemed to have cleared some of the buzziness away from the grips as she ran a bit smoother than before. Could be my imagination of course.

Quite the adventure for my first overnight ride, which turned into two nights and some pretty gnarly riding conditions at times. Hope you enjoyed the telling as much as I did the riding.

The route I took

Note to Self: Started off with front tire having maybe 2.1mm of thread left, 1268 miles later, about 1.7-8mm left. Time for a new front tire soon.

MPG Note: Avg: 45mpg

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