After having spent almost a year at the foot of the Monument I finally bought a park-pass and took a ride through the park. I went in the west entrance and gawked at some of the overlooks before I peeled off on one of the roads to Glade Park
I was surprised to discover that the Monument is just the north-facing cliff of a huge mesa that runs all the way south to highway 141. There isn’t a continuous road over to 141 that I could find, but the trees and creeks go all the way over
I ran out of road at the edge of the Grand Mesa National Forest mostly because the City of Fruita had dug a hole in the road to repair a water line
The mesa tops out around 9500 feet so it was nice and cool up there. The grass was still green and the wild flowers still had blooms on
After months of planning we’re on adventure! My friends Mike and John launched out of Cuba NM about the same time I left out of Fruita and we met in Del Norte, CO.
Day one for me was a hair-raising experience. I’ve likely never ridden more than 25 miles of pavement at one time in my whole life and my first day on the road lasted for 250 miles of pavement and more than half of that at 70 MPH. The Honda Africa Twin is a heavy bike (I’m guessing about 600 pounds plus me, so 760-ish on the road?) and it handles well on the highway.
I left on a tuesday and traffic was very light. I mostly had the road to myself and less than a handful of people caught me from behind. I managed to figure out how to handle the bike while it was going 7 MPH or more. Under 7 MPH it gets very heavy and if it starts to tip over it’s going to finish the job.
On day one Mike and John rode a rough dirt section of trail in New Mexico and both of them had a date with the dirt. I got to see the battle scars when we met up. Mike broke a side case and John picked up some new scratches
We all met up at the Windsor Hotel in Del Norte. It’s a nice place. Fully remodeled: A/C, hot & cold water, nice bed, nice people. The only down-side was the sloth-like pace of the people running the restaurant. I should have eaten before I went down to dinner. Breakfast was even slower. It took an hour to get two scrambled eggs and some potatoes out of the kitchen
We stopped for gas at the corner station in Del Norte and John was attacked by a gravity storm and went down. Broke the clutch lever on his VFRX 1200. We called a few places looking for a replacement with no luck. Then John had the bright idea to stop at Kens’ Tire and Automotive where Darren had the solution. We hammered a section of copper pipe on the broken lever stub and Darren bent it into a curve. Brilliant! I’m guessing it will last about a hundred years like that
After repairs were complete we rode from Del Norte north-bound past Natural Arch then zig-zagged our way through the mountains on dirt roads to Sargents, CO. Mike ran over a nail and got a flat tire just past the arch. While we were fixing the flat some people stopped by to chat and offer extra tools. Adventure bike people are nice and it was fun to meet and chat with the folks who stopped
It took all day to go ~100 miles and we ended the day at the Monarch Mountain Lodge on the east side of Monarch Pass. The hotel’s hey-day was likely in the 1970’s. The building has that Swiss-chalet look that was popular oh-so-very-long-ago and now it has a sort of Tammy Fey Baker make-up sagging off the facade look to it
They served dinner, but only the stuff that could be cooked in the fryer. There was only one person both cooking and serving and she was 10x faster than the Windsor restaurant. Next day we got up hoping the restaurant would serve breakfast like the desk-guy said they did, but no such luck. Apparently pillow-cases and breakfast were in short supply. We powered up to the top of Monarch Pass and ate at the gift shop. Very tasty breakfast sandwiches were had by all
Day three took us down the Gunnison River playing tourist at all the beautiful spots. Blue Mesa, Cinnamon river, and then over to Black Canyon where we rode down to the bottom and had lunch at the rivers edge. My upright motorcycle luck ran out at the entrance gate to Black Canyon N.P. I fell over at the gate house and LOTS of people were in line behind me. SO embarrassing!
After our canyon adventure we rode pavement west then south through Ridgway, Ouray, and over the Million-Dollar highway to Silverton. There were SO many avalanches in the mountains this past winter and the amount of broken trees is staggering! The area has that fresh pine scent that only comes with millions of snapped-off pine trees oozing sap in the spring
We arrived at the Prospector Motel to find that the office had been converted into a room. We had to walk a block down the road to check in at the quicky-mart then walk back. The Prospect Motel peaked in about 1980 and while it was clean, had both kinds of water, and was quiet, I wouldn’t book my next vacation there
After getting cleaned up we set out in search of a meal and met some people who have been coming to Silverton for 40 years. They had some fine recommendations. We ate dinner at the Handle Bars food and saloon (look for the mustache) and the next day breakfast at the Brown Bear Cafe. Both good choices!
Day four we split up and went different ways. I headed back north over Red Mountain Pass and down valley to Grand Junction. Mike and John rode toward Durango and back into New Mexico where John had another go at falling down. Sand got him this time
All told it was a fun ride with great friends! I arrived home exhausted yet unscathed so I call that a win!
After months of thinking and list-making it’s finally time to start piling up the gear I will take on the trip
It feels like I’m wearing more than I’m carrying in the panniers. The riding pants, jacket, boots, hydration-pack, and helmet feel close to 30 pounds. There is about half that weight in the panniers
I tried all the things on while it was close to 90* outside and it feels hot too. The ride out to meet my friends will be in the 80’s and 90’s. Where we’re going is forecast to be lows in the mid-30’s and highs in the upper 70’s. I suspect I’m going to be both hot and cold on this trip. If the weather holds I might not be wet so that would be a plus
Chuck stopped in town for an overnight and we ate mexican food and rode bikes! YaY! We started climbing Hawkeye before 7am, then across to Mac ridge, and completed the loop on Troy built. It’s a great ride early in the morning. Finished before 80*F
That night was Fruita’s big fireworks display and they set the rabbit brush on fire within the first 5 minutes of the show. Lower Valley Fire had it out in less than 5 minutes so YaY! fire fighters! The show was 15 minutes long so I’m glad I didn’t stand in any lines to get in (or pay any money)
All things considered it’s a good show for such a small town to put on and about a gazillion people came to watch it (and drink beer and play corn-hole)