Thursday, July 08, 2010

Independence Pass on Independence Day, 2010

This past Sunday, I woke shortly after 6:00AM from a somewhat restless night in Gunnison, CO where I'd overnighted after a long day on Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig. 

It was the United States of America's 234th birthday, Independence Day!

I got cleaned up and was packing up my stuff into the sidecar when folks went by exclaiming about balloons.  At first, it didn't register with me why they'd be getting all excited over balloons.  Then I looked up from my packing and saw this:

My first balloon sighting of the day

I hurriedly finished up, did a quick TCLOCS on Natasha, and rode out of the motel parking lot to go balloon hunting.  It didn't take me long to find the rest of them as the launching field was Jorgensen Park which was just down the street from the motel.

I turned towards a community baseball field and positioned Natasha for photos with the balloons already aloft.

The town of Gunnison sure knows how to start off celebrations for the Fourth of July!

Gunnison is the home of Colorado's Western State College

Apparently, the ballooning club or group which was putting on this mass flight was permitted to touch down in whatever spot was big enough to fit their balloon in.  Quite unusual for me to see hot air balloons seemingly landing where they pleased to swap passengers and chat with the crowds:

Swapping passengers at a street intersection

I left town at 07:45 AM, a bit behind schedule due to chasing the balloons but I think it was worth it.  It was quite chilly this morning in the Gunnison Valley, had to stop to don my insulated liner and heavy gloves!  I made the slow climb up to Monarch Pass and stopped a couple of times for photographs and to let cagers get by me.

One last look at Gunnison Valley

I finally reached Monarch Pass' summit area and posed Natasha to give you a feel for the views available from the top of the pass:

Some of the mountain peaks visible from the summit of Monarch Pass

I made my way down from Monarch Pass until I go to the junction of US50 and US285 at Poncha Springs.  I went north on US 285, admiring how the morning sun bathed the Collegiate Peaks in bright sunlight.  I continued north on US24W just south of the town of Buena Vista.

After cruising slowly through town, it was about 25 miles later that I got to the junction with CO82, the road to Independence Pass.  One is soon rewarded with a great mountain scene upon turning from US24, luckily the traffic was light since it was only 9:30AM on a Sunday:

I think this is Mount Elbert

The next few shots should give you an idea of the wonderful views and twisty roads available for riders on the way up to the summit of Independence Pass.  There were lots of motorcycles on this road today, no big surprise there.

Another view of Mt Elbert? as I was heading up CO82 towards Independence Pass

This is about the halfway up point 

The road up to the summit is paved but it suffers from lots of undulating bumps and dips.  I am sure its the result of frost heave action but its something to keep in mind.  There's no guard rails so it pays to keep an eye on the road and stopping where its safe for pictures and scenery gazing.

The view of neighboring peaks from the last hairpin turn before the summit

Glimpses of the road I'd just ridden, from where I stopped at the last hairpin turn before the summit

Soon after taking the above pictures at the last hairpin turn, I was at the summit of Independence Pass.  It wasn't too crowded at all and I was able to park Natasha by the pass sign.  Not sure how the fellow riding the 1200LT Beemer is going to back out of that spot where he left his motorcycle.

The requisite picture of the sign at the pass

I did not tarry long at the top of the pass, I had miles to go and a social gathering to attend in the evening you see.  I made my way back down from the pass, taking the same road I'd taken up instead of continuing on CO82 to the town of Aspen which lies at its northern end.

This was the best shot of the day, in my opinion.  
I'd just come off the summit and turning towards the first hairpin turn.

Coming down from Independence Pass was not bad at all, in spite of the bumps and dips in the road.  They are working on the road so I am sure it'll be better soon.  I kept having to pull off and let speeding cars rush their way down from the pass, guess they had places to go, never mind the scenery around them.  Soon I was back at the small town of Twin Lakes near where I stopped for this last shot of the mountains.

View of the mountains near Independence Pass from the vicinity of Twin Lakes

Once back on US24, I kept heading North towards Leadville to see what I could see as I made my way to the I-70 super slab which lies about 37 miles north of Leadville.  I got to Leadville after the Fourth of July Festivities had come and gone apparently.  All that remained were the crowds walking amongst the tourist shops.  I left Leadville and pointed Natasha at Fremont Pass.  This another of Colorado's passes and you get to it from Leadville via CO91.

Just before you climb the last mile to Fremont Pass' summit, you see the massive excavations of the Climax Mining Company:

The mining operations are quite visible on the way up to Fremont Pass

Nice scenery near the mine operations

Continuing on CO91, I came upon one of my favorite picture spots when riding the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway:

On CO91, north of Leadville

Soon I was in the Copper Mountain Ski Resort town and took I-70 East towards Denver hoping to make some time even though Natasha really doesn't like the speeds one has to maintain on this highway.

Natasha and I endured it as long as we could but we finally just bailed near Genesee Park.  This semi-trailer hauling mail and I had been playing tag with each other on the slow lane and it was a bit nerve-wracking for me.  I'd pass him going uphill (can you believe it?) but then he'd bear down on me when heading downhill and zoom past me.  We repeated this dance sequence a couple of times and I tired of it first.

I was reminded how bad it can be on one's nerves, even when riding a highly capable motorcycle like my R80 Beemer, to ride in medium to heavy traffic on any Interstate highway.  Once on the backroads heading into the Denver Metro area, things got much better and the rest of my ride was nice and calm.

Only 279 Kilometers of riding today, perhaps 6 hours in the saddle overall.  Natasha did great the last two days, covering over 600 miles with no complaints and just a few drops of engine oil left on the motel's parking spot.  (Yes, I did wipe it up).

1 comment:

cpa3485 said...

I haven't been across Monarch Pass in a really long time, but remember it was beautiful and your pictures showed that very well. It is ironic to me that you went by Twin lakes. As a child, my parents rented a cabin there for a family vacation. They loved fishing and we fished every day and had trout for dinner every night. Have great memories of that place.
Wonderful post and it looks like your weather for the weekend was better than ours.
Premeditated Scootin'