Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Southwest Colorado Trip - Day 5 Chama Loop

Today I decided to explore to the SE of Pagosa Springs, in the Chromo/Chama area of the state. The mountains that form the southern portion of the divide spanned by the Wolf Creek Pass are to the east of Chromo so I figured it was a good jumping off point.

After tanking up Brigitta on the east side of Pagosa Springs and picking up more hypoid gear oil for another transmission oil flush; I headed south out of town on US84 towards Chromo. US84 is a really nice motorcycling road, nicely paved and with easy curves generally following the contours of the river which created the valley it sits in.

I could see beautiful views of distant high mountains but never did get close enough. About 30 miles later I got to the very small settlement of Chromo, blink an eye and you're through it. I kept going, hoping to find county roads that went eastward closer to the peaks. The countryside was pretty with some nice looking ridges and mesas here and there.

Soon I was at the New Mexico border and I spotted the twin to Colorado's Chimney Rock shortly after transiting into New Mexico:

Chimney Rock's Twin in New Mexico, I think it's called Eagle Point

As I rode towards the next town, Chama, I spotted a sign for a historical marker just up ahead. I was riding through what I thought was a small valley at the time and being a sucker for such things, I stopped to take a look:

Looks like a valley to me, just goes to show you have to read the signs!

I got to the town of Chama and after a brief stop at the tourist information office, I headed east out of town on NM 17. The lady at the tourist office said this was a pretty drive and I must say, I now agree with her!

The Cumbres and Toltec Railroad line played a huge part in the mining history of the area. There was a museum and exhibit area in Chama and I stopped briefly for this shot of the depot:

Chama RR Depot

I kept riding east/northeast-wards out of town and surprisingly soon I was once again at the border between New Mexico and Colorado! Here's my last view of New Mexico today:

My last view of New Mexico at the state border

What had been easy curving roadway on NM 17 now became rapidly ascending and increasingly twisty roads on CO 17. The air got noticeably cooler as I felt the elevation changes.

Just before Cumbres Pass

The requisite Cumbres Pass sign

Crossing Cumbres Pass, I noted a small rail station for the Cumbres & Toltec line. The road became flat at this point and I was wondering why they called it a pass since a pass usually drops down towards a valley soon after its summit.

The answer presented itself as I was zooming along, delighting in the tight curves and views of approaching mountains. I was going fast enough that I passed the sign for La Manga pass and had to stop and turn around for the requisite pass picture:

The view back towards Cumbres Pass from La Manga Pass

After this pass, the road started gently sloping downwards and with moderate curves to enjoy. I soon entered Conejos County and came upon this grand view of Conejos Canyon:

Brigitta at Conejos Canyon

A broader view of Conejos Canyon

CO 17 really starts sloping steeply downwards at this point and disappointingly soon deposits you down on the valley floor. You transit through small settlements such as Fox Creek and Las Mesitas. It was at Las Mesitas (which means "Small Tables") since it's surrounded by small mesa formations; that I spotted what I though was an abandoned church. On closer inspection, I think it's a half-finished church which ran out of money to be finished perhaps.

Continuing on CO17 (you really don't have much choice) I was soon at the junction with US 285 near the town of Antonito. Here was another Cumbres and Toltec railroad station, the one for Antonito. I stopped here next to an old train to check in with my loving wife and take pictures:

Antonito's RR Depot

I headed north towards and through Antonitos. As I went through the town of Conejos, I spotted a small sign stating: Colorado's Oldest Church. Needless to say, I turned Brigitta in that direction!

Shortly I came upon a standard Catholic style church, located next to the Conejos County courthouse complex. The church is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and you can see the details about it in the sign below.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Colorado's Oldest Church

Heading back north on US 285, the ride became a straight road slog to US 160. I was now fully into the southern part of the large San Luis Valley and it was just farmland and ranches all about me.

I tanked up again in the town of Alamosa and headed westward towards the western valley mountains as fast as traffic would allow. Looking back on things now, I would recommend that you turn around at Antonitos and re do both La Manga and Cumbres Pass instead of completing the loop I rode.

I hit the area near Wolf Creek Pass after about an hour of riding. The riding got more enjoyable at this point as one approaches the pass as you might imagine. Soon enough, I'd traversed the pass one more time successfully and safely and was heading towards Pagosa Springs.

That's Sheep Mountain to the left, the rocky formations in the center are where the Wolf Creek Pass Scenic Overlook is located.

Another view of Sheep Mountain

Indian Head Rock on US 160

After these pictures, it was a straight up ride towards Pagosa Springs which I got to around 5:30 PM or so. After resting a bit, I drained the oil again from the Ebay transmission. The almost 600 miles I'd racked up since the last oil change revealed oil that was less cloudy and dirty looking. So I am hopeful I am successfully removing the water contamination it came with.

EOD mileage 76,918. Now using GearSaver 80w90 GL5 Hypoid Gear Oil I got from the local Yamaha dealer. Its red instead of golden brown like the BMW stuff but should do fine.


Dave Morrell said...

Have you given up riding the big bike?

Charlie6 said...

Maria is in the shop for a failed O2 sensor and plugged fuel filter....plus new front tire.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo)
History... Trains... And Mountains... All of my favorite things. You make these rides seem easy -- and very close by.

Fondest regards,
Jack "reep" Toad
Twisted Roads