Day 4
June 16th, 2005
Lathrop State Park
Near Walsenburg, Colorado

The stormy afternoon of yesterday was gone, replaced by a brilliant blue sky and a bright sun.  I was up early and packing, anxious to get in the mountains proper.

A young couple in a site not far from me already had their tent rolled and was just a few minutes from departure, "dang how'd they beat ME?" I asked.

For the first time this trip I put on the leather AGV sport gloves.

The snow capped mountains surrounding me looked regal.  Temp stood in the high 40s but should warm as the morning passes, but in the mountains it could be another story.

I got back on U.S. 160 and headed west.  Soon after leaving the park the 1300 was called upon to do a little leaning.  Its no secret my hard leaning days are pretty much over.  I'm basically a flatlander, and the only leaning I get is on trips when my bike is loaded.  But even that, I don't have much nerve anymore.  I'm a long way from home, would be heartbroken if I banged up my bike, and don't have time for a broke leg, so I'm conservative.  My reflexes are not what they use to be, and charging into hard right handers, blind and leaning hard, unsettles me.  I get my challenges from other things these days, the concentration required for such riding takes the fun out of it for me.  I just need enough speed to lean a little.  The 1300 is a little disappointed I won't let him run, but understands his jockey is a has been, and more into the scenery.  The bike respects my wishes and glides me through the mountains and valleys of this pristine state with little input.

In the mountains, the sky seemed so big and blue I thought it was going to swallow me.  No area in North America has the concentration of 12,000 foot peaks of Colorado, and on this morning I was enjoying every one of them.

I took a early break when I spotted a roadside table with a million dollar view.  I had the spot to myself, so I pulled off and broke out my peanut butter and jelly.  In the Moto Fizz bag I had half a Mountain Dew from the night before, so I had something to drink.  Only 40 miles into the ride, I was concerned about such early lounging, but then I thought, "so what, I'm the BOSS, and who cares if I stop only 40 miles from my start?  I don't have a certain time I gotta be anywhere."  I wanted to get to Telluride today, but if I don't make it, whose going to miss me?

Folks, I sat right there on that table, made a sandwich, and while munching down, gazed at the mountains and valleys in the distance.  I thought about the jokers on Wall Street right now trying to make a living, I thought about factory workers sweating out another 8 hours, and I thought about the millions sitting in front of some computer screen or in some mind numbing meeting that NO one wanted to be in, and compared that to me, out here in the Colorado Mountains, eating a sandwich.  I had freedom and no responsibility, I studied the mountains, "the day is mine.  I'm free to do with it as I please, and I will not waste it."  I decided right then and there, to savor EVERY minute of this glorious day. The weather was absolutely perfect, the bike one of the best in the world, not to be here, at this time, would be sinful.  I would not care how many miles I rode today, or where I was when it ended.   I will review the day when I crawl in my tent, and I want to be able to say, it was one for the Hall of Fame.  To say that, I had to be sure to do it right.  
​I enjoyed this view eating my sandwich, and thinking
about the glory of living life fully.

It was time to set out to do as I said, so I fired up the Honda and took off.

The beauty of La Veta Pass was next, coming in at 9,000+ feet.  The air was Rocky Mountain crisp, my ears popped at the change in elevation.  I shot by bogged down traffic on the steep mountain roads.  "Now there goes a guy that KNOWS how to travel."  I could hear them thinking it.   A svelte, blue cruise missile had just whizzed by, and all they could do was lust with envy at having so much power and speed on call.

I wished I had a placard on my back.  "Follow me.  Leave your drab, humdrum, lives for the adventure of a lifetime.  Come, and we will take on the greatest roads in the country, and witness the world's finest scenery.  Everyday will be different than the day before, and gloriously enjoyed.  I can't guarantee all will be fun, but I can promise you they won't be boring."  You don't know who you really are people, till you've been tested.

In what seemed like just a few minutes, I was in Fort Garland at a con store taking on gas.  The clerk inside was the owner of a Busa, and asked questions about my trip.  I used the ATM, and quickly got back on the road.  The riding was so much fun, I was eager to get back out.

I zipped up the vents on the Roadcrafter in the cool mountain air.  Temps were holding steady in the low 50s.
Out of Fort Garland 160 carried me west through mountains and valleys.  It was cool and I trimmed the screen a little higher than usual.  No one could keep pace with me, as the 1300 blistered the run outs and carved the turns.

In South Fork I left U.S. 160 for SR 149.  I thought about how I enjoyed the old Dallas TV show, and how JR always seemed to come out on top.

SR 149 hugs the Rio Grande River through the mountain valleys.  The riding was awesome as I carved up and down the hills.  
​Colorado 149 snaking its way through the valley and 
mountains.  It was great riding.  As you can see, the weather
was perfect

I was in a deep left hander when I met a group of southbound bikes riding easy.  They saw I was busy and didn't wave.  They knew I could not leave the bars.  Leaving the highway to my left would mean a DEEP drop down the bluffs, a Long Rider has to be cautious on this road.

The riding was the type all riders dream of.  Perfect weather, a masterful road, and time to enjoy it.  I was surrounded by high mountains, emerald valleys, and scattered pastures.  Cattle grazed in the fields, and a few had their heads down taking a drink from the river.  The scene was riveting as it was beautiful.

A road side memorial marks the Apex of a high and tight right hand curve.  I found a safe place to park the ST and went back for a closer look.  I found 2 crosses.  Apparently, the vehicle they were riding in failed to negotiate this changing radius curve, and went over the side.  I took a look down the bluffs, it was several hundred  feet to the bottom, and littered with rocks and boulders.  They didn't have a chance.  These roads are dangerous no matter if you are on 2 wheels or 4.
​I stopped often to enjoy the view
A flock of southbound touring bikes met me, about 10-15, all makes, half riding 2 up.  All of them returned my wave.  That's one thing about this tour that is different than years past, almost every bike I meet is waving at me.

A unofficial turnout appeared and I went in for a photo op.  The scene captivated so many, the area was turned into a impromptu scenic vista.  A few minutes later a south bound Kawasaki Voyager couple pulled in.  They were from the Hudson Valley area of New York.  They were impressed at my knowledge of the area.  One thing about being a Long Rider, when you meet someone you have a good chance of being able to hold a conversation about their area of the country.  People love it when you speak of their home turf and know the major landmarks in it.

"did you see a group of southbound bikes?"

"yeah about 10 minutes ahead of y'all."

"That's our group, we meet out here somewhere every year."
 ​I met this New York couple at a impromptu vista
Back on the road, the intense sunlight at this elevation was reflecting off my instrument pod and glaring my vision.

It was 11:10 am when I came into Lake City, a pleasant looking town, nestled in the beauty of the surrounding mountains.  I do my best to eat in the 11-11:30am window, to beat the crowds.  Besides, we went to lunch at the pickle plant at 11:15, and I found out then it was a good time to eat.

The Tic Tac Diner looked good so I stopped in and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich; PLAIN.  The young waitress looked at me oddly and said, "Plain? Just meat and bread?"  "EXACTLY, make sure he doesn't mess it up." 


I had a good cell signal and called PeterM, Uncle Phil and Debbie.  Peter has his own trip to Colorado in a few weeks and asked me to check out a few routes.  "You know I will brother, but ya can put SR 149 on the list right now."

My strategy of a early lunch paid off big, the place was jammed when I left.  Including tip, the meal set me back 10 bucks.  "What the hell? I thought I left the UK last month?"

I went over the Continental Divide at North Pass.  It was cool and a little windy up there.

SR 149 came down out of the mountains at Powderhorn.  It was more intense leaning as I used the engine for breaking on the downhill.  The route ended on U.S. 50, just west of Gunnison.  I followed that direction over the Blue Mesa Reservoir towards Montrose.  They named the placed correctly.

I stopped for more pictures on the west side of the lake.  It was a good thing I was riding solo on this day.  If a partner had been with me, he would have surely grown inpatient at all my picture taking.  Why I prefer to ride solo.  I don't have to worry about anyone but me.  I seldom get lonely, my phone and the friends I meet along the way keep that from happening.  I feel more connected to the ride and the experience when I'm alone.
​Near Blue Mesa Reservoir
Three cars fell before me and the 1300 just after we left a construction wait.  I love the power of this bike.
In Montrose, a cop was waiting for a green arrow to make a left turn.  I was riding slowly on my way through town, when the light in my lane changed to yellow, right as I reached the point of no return.  "Dam, this is gonna be close, and I'm in full view of that cop."  It was, but he made no move to come for me.

U.S. 550 and 50 intersects in the city, and after turning south on the latter, I came into a con store for gas.  A lady in a pick up truck came to me.  "I ride a Gold Wing but my son wants an ST."  "A wise choice m' lady, I know I love mine."  I told her all about my bike and how it does so many things, so well.  

I had heard celebrated stuff about Telluride, and was looking forward to checking it out.  It was only an hour away from here.

U.S. 550 south out of Montrose was not a good ride.  The scenery was superb, but the traffic was bad.  I was glad to leave it for SR 62, another route that went high in the mountains.

I quickly bolted around a RV before he had a chance to lock me down in the upcoming mountains.  I felt sorry for those behind me, it was going to take them days to reach Telluride at the pace the vehicle was moving.

The ride was good into Telluride,  but traffic picked up about 15 miles from the city.  Signs along the way announced a jazz festival was taking place there.  Undeterred, I took SR 145 in Placerville, and fell in the line of cars heading for the village.  There is only way in and one way out, so no need to be in a hurry.

Telluride is a quaint, scenic town, circled by the San Juan Mountains, which still had plenty of snow on the peaks.  The city is packed with hotels, saloons, B and Bs, and restaurants.  I wished to spend the night here and take in some of the ambience but not a vacancy sign could be found.

When I was done cruising the area, I went back to 145 and headed for the first federal campground.  The route took me by the ski mountain, it was being used for parking to help relieve the congestion down in the village.
The first campground was full.  I was not surprised, I pushed on to the next.  When I arrived, I found the ranger stacking firewood.  "Nice bike ya got there, but I'm full."  From internet research, I knew of a private campground further south, about 25 miles, so I headed there.

It was late afternoon and I was looking extra hard for deer, but saw none.

I swooped down a long down hill with S like twisties, bottomed out, then started climbing.  I went pass a beautiful mountain lake, but the southbound lane had no safe place to pull off to take a pic.  I'll try again in the morning on the way back.

Lizard Head Pass registers in at 10,000 plus in elevation.  I stopped and strolled the area's scenic vista.  Several signs told the story of how the railroads conquered the pass.  They often cleared tracks of snow with nothing more than shovels. 
A cold wind blew through the passes and rustled my hair, I turned my collar and placed my hands in my pockets.  The sun was going down, and shadows were working their way up the mountains.  My day would soon be over I thought, and I felt like I succeeded in keeping my promise.  I enjoyed it to the max.  Not just for me, but in honor of all who could not be here, but were riding with me in spirit.  I stood before the mountains and dreamed of a thousand things, but I can't remember what they were about.  The time was special, and I was numb from the beauty of it all.  

​Late afternoon at Lizard Head Pass
South of Lizard Head the road surface turned to chip and seal, as CDOT worked to repair the damage the harsh winters inflict on these roadways.  The 1300 wiggled in the grooves, and any thoughts of leaning was now out of the question.

It seemed like a long ride to the Priest Gulch campground, but I finally made it with a hour of daylight still remaining. 

To get to the tent sites I had to cross a wooden bridge that kind of reminded me of the Blue Ridge Campground in Cruso.  I was glad the tents had a separate area from the RVs.  I found a nice site on the banks of a fast moving creek.  It was a great spot.  

I finished the day with 402 miles.
​Relaxing by the creek at the end of a great day
No running today.  I wanted to rest my leg and prepare for a 6 mile run sometime in the next couple of days.  Instead, I took a walk down to the office, and bought a diet drink. 

It was 12 miles to the nearest cafe, so I ate a chicken sandwich.  No matter how many times I eat it, I never tire of chicken.  

The art of windscreen debugging can sometimes be a pain in the butt, but I didn't want the screen on the 1300 to look like that of the 1100.  I also cleaned the front of the fairing and the headlight.  If you do it at the end of EACH day, it makes it easier. 
​The daily ritual of screen cleaning.  One of the little things
called upon while on tour.

I put all my toys on charge while I showered.  My phone was a little low, and I wanted my DVD player ready.
By dusk I was in my tent watching, "Out of the West."  I recorded the first two episodes and saved them for this tour.  A fitting title for my trip if there ever was one.

I enjoyed the movie then curled up and went to sleep about 11pm.  Tomorrow I leave the mountains and enter the Utah desert and canyons.  I still had a couple of mountain ranges to get over, but I will make quick work of them.

The night was cold, and I was cool in my sleeping bag.  My bag is only rated to 30, and I don't like being cool even a little bit.  I was wishing I had that 50 lbs back I lost since last year, but I made it.