The Big Trip – Day 2
Day two started where Day 1 left off, in Gunnison, CO. The day started off much much easier than the previous one had ended, taking US-50 on wonderful hard pavement past Blue Mesa Reservoir through a wonderful hard packed construction zone to Cimarron Rd and over Big Cimarron Pass. This was a dirt road once again, but compared to that one construction zone it was a wonderful road, it was spectacular, hard packed and easy to ride on, and well traveled too.
Then, a car coming the opposite direction stopped me and told me I should turn around, the road had washed out ahead and that it would probably be really difficult to pass on my motorcycle. I agreed that I should turn around and said I’d do so. I continued on thinking eventually I would turn around but would wait for an opportunity to do so. I reached the washed out road before that opportunity had presented itself. I pulled off to the side and got off considering my options. There was certainly lots of water everywhere, the trees to the left of me were all flooded out, but the road didn’t look that bad, it just looked a little muddy, like the road I’d ridden through in that construction zone.
Another car approached and asked me about the conditions ahead, I told them I hadn’t been across yet and was hoping to ask someone coming the other direction the same thing. As they passed through the muddy section of road I watched to see how bad it actually was, but it still didn’t seem too bad. So I walked up the road a bit to see how it was further up, and there was some machinery working, but no sign of anyone getting stuck. Eventually I decided ‘fuck it’ I’m going for it, I figured it anything happened at least there were people there to laugh at me and my stupidity and then help. Turns out the road wasn’t that bad after all, certainly wasn’t a cake walk, and when I got to the machinery the road got terribad but the guys in the front-end loaders moved out of my way and let me pass safely without having to stop for them and get stuck. So I thank them for that, they probably thought I was a little bit nuts, because through the water there was no way to tell how rutted the road really was, but I just kept on it and made it out the other side and that was that, the rest of the journey was easy.
Big Cimarron Pass ends up in the mountains and turns into Owl Creek Pass which takes you back down and into Ridgway, CO. As I approached Owl Creek Pass, I started to feel uneasy and it took me a while to figure out why. Eventually it hit me, the scenery had this Jurassic Park-esk feel to it, it was like I was riding through Jurassic Park on a motorcycle. How insane would that have been? No wonder I felt uneasy. Luckily all I saw were cows, some on the road, some seemed to be angry with each other, in the middle of the road, and me on my motorcycle trying to pass them safely. I used to live next to a cattle farm, but still I was a little scared they’d decide I was a mutual enemy and both come after me. This did not happen, a pickup truck honked a bunch of times and then slowly drove up towards them and they got out of the way and I snuck in behind.
Heading down Owl Creek Pass I came across a famous mountain form, if you’ve seen the original True Grit, I believe this is the mountain from that movie. I, have not seen the movie, so am not quite sure, but that’s what I’ve been told. Horo decided to wake up around this time and pop out of the top case to have a gander ’round. It was about this time that a group of people on ATVs passed by in the opposite direction and did double takes at what was hang out in the back of my bike, probably seeing the tail and hair and wondering what kind of creature was that thing. As there was a switch back right there they got to continue looking as they went up the other side and into the forest.
One of the interesting things about areas like this and heck, even some of the main roads in Colorado were the cattle guards in the roads. It’s guards like these that allow the cattle the ability to roam around freely without escaping the fencing as the cattle wont walk across them because of the gaps, and without having to put gates up everywhere for drivers to open and close. Because we all know how well the honour system works, some idiot would leave the gate open and out go the cattle. The downside is, if you pass one of these guards you should probably be on guard ha ha. There’s probably cattle on the road or in some cases horses.
At this point I was now at Ridgway, CO and the start of the “Million Dollar Highway’ as it’s called. I followed US-550 to Ouray, CO which was a nice little town surrounded by mountains and a nice set of switchbacks to start out the “Million Dollar Highway” at the south end. Unfortunately it was getting pretty dark due to the cloud cover and I stopped to put on some rain gear. My ride down the “Million Dollar Highway” that has no guard rails and very steep cliffs off the edge of the road (awesome!) was full of rain which meant I couldn’t have as much fun as I wanted on the scary road, nor stop as frequently for photos because I’d be traveling slower thus taking longer and using up more of my day.
The rain did let up after a while, but the cloud cover did not, not until after I got down to Durango,CO anyway. This was as much blue sky as I saw along the trip and it kept me hopeful I’d see more, but I didn’t. As you can see, I was also the only one around which was a little disconcerting. Ok.. there was that pickup truck you can see behind my filthy bike in that other photo. But they didn’t actually seem to be around, it was just a truck by itself. My bike was still muddy after the trip over Big Cimarron Pass, but some of it had washed away in the rain, I wanted to preserve as much filth on the bike as I could, but this was the filthiest I managed to get a photo of. I wanted the filth to represent the distance I traveled, but my bike was actually clean by the time I got back to Canada due to a couple of things, like the rain amongst others.
It was a little amusing riding down into Durango after being up in the mountains, because the temperature in the mountains with the rain was like 10°C, then you drop into Durango and it’s like 34°C but I’m still wearing all the warm gear from the mountains. I was so hot, eventually I stopped just outside Durango on my way towards Cortez, CO to take off all the excess gear, though I was worried with the clouds that it would rain again and I’d have to put it all back on. Thankfully I missed the rain, watching the radar on my GPS I could see it all around me but never over me, which was wonderful.
I’d packed a little bit too much in this day and only realized it after paying to enter Mesa Verde. In fact, I should have just planned to camp there but I was hungry and thought I’d head into Cortez after my visit. Unfortunately this meant I barely scratched the surface at Mesa Verde, I got some great photos of Horo, but didn’t see much of the cool stuff there was to see there. Like the cliff dwellings… And as the sun set I was still there and had to ride back out, I did so quite a bit too fast, and it was fun, but stupid as there were likely to be deer everywhere. Which is something I’d find out more about at another park the next day.
Yet another day I’d brought all my camping gear along and stayed in a hotel instead.