Tour De’Colorado: 2 Up

What do you get when you add 2 weeks time, one beautiful wife, a whole shebang of camping gear, and a big blue motorcycle? The trip of a lifetime is what! And what better setting to place such a trip than gorgeous Colorado!

This trip took place in the first bit of August 2017. “It’ll be boiling hot!” “You’ll get soaked!” “You’ll ruin your backside!” Naysayers aside, we were hot, we were cold, we were wet, and we were tired, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world!

What better start to a Colorado adventure than the quaint little town of Telluride? There is some seriously surreal property in Telly, and as Ferris said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” Well, we can dream.

As they say, “With a van, you can!”  Never mind who “they” are. You’re looking at 21 feet of American Made glory right there. Fits a Tenere pretty darn well!

Jumping off: Day 1

Layered up, rain gear on, and everything strapped down, we head off into the rainy morning on day 1. Ahead lies Gateway Canyon, John Brown Canyon, a startled black bear, and Moab, Utah. Bonus points if you can find the ‘hanging flume’. Of course, we had to say hi to the horse version of Fabio on our way to seeing some very old footprints.

Turns out, Moab is hot in August. Leaving Castle Valley and heading to City Market to fuel up both the bike and ourselves had us very much looking forward to a dip in the river. All the recent rainfall had the Colorado brown and full. It was still mighty fine!


Getting out of Dodge: Day 2

The new morning had us going up to the 70 and into Grand Junction. A word to the wise, avoid the 70. It’s friggin’ boring. Long, straight, flat. But, it gets you access to Colorado National Monument, which is almost cool enough to redeem that abysmal road. Almost.

Up next: Grand Mesa. Everything between Grand Junction and Cedarville is pure bliss. If you’re in the area, don’t miss Grand Mesa. Skiing? Check. Trails? Check. OHV? Check. Fishing? Check. Boating? Check. Freshly repaved roads? Ohhh, buddy. This place has it all. Don’t forget to stop and get your hard cider in Cedarville either!

To finish off the day, we dodged a bugger of a storm cell to scoot through Montrose and down into Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This is one of those places that you’d never see if you were just driving through. You have to make an effort to get here, and go specifically out of your way, but when you do, you are rewarded with a special treat. East portal campground is well worth the harrowing drive to get to. The roads are seriously steep.  

Hot, wet, left and right: Day 3

Twisty roads, hot springs, and the best camp spot of the trip. The 92 heading north from Gunnison is pure bliss. Epic views and unending twisties leaving you ready for more. That said, the 133 is one of my favorite paved roads of the trip; fast, flowy, gorgeous. Them Colorado engineers really know how to put a road in.  Don’t forget to play tourist and see the coke ovens on your way into Redstone.

We enjoyed soaking in the hot springs and seeing the mountaintop amusement park in Glenwood Springs. We then hit up the local grocery where I learned my headlights had both burnt out. At 7:30. As the sun is setting in an unfamiliar town where we don’t have a camp planned. Crud! AutoZone to the rescue, and much thanks to Mother Yamaha for using standard H4 bulbs. Crisis averted. Now where to sleep? KOA’s full, hotels are $$$, and national forest is far enough to be finding camp in the dark. Well, we put our newly minted headlights to task, and found a viable spot up Avalanche Creek Rd. Luckily, no snow this time of year.

Of course, the entry fee is a nighttime water crossing on a 800lb motorcycle! Talk about fun! Hah. Set up camp, cook dinner, everything in the bear bag, hit the sack. We awoke to the best spot of the trip. Towering mountain ridges closed our view on either side, lush alpine streams serenaded us, and morning sun filtered through the trees.  Can’t we stay another night?! The water crossing was much less eventful in the daylight.

Pizza, Crusty Butt, Cheap Cups: Day 4

Next stop, Crested Butte by way of Forest Rd 12.  This one’s a stunner guys. Of course, the camera was charging, so you’ll have to take my word for it.  If you’re in the area, make it a point to drive this road. Then you can try the Elizabeth Anne pizza in Crested Butte.  

Onward and outward. Coming up, Tin Cup. It’s a weird little historic town up in the sticks. Pretty cool place, just don’t count on a great hamburger while you’re there. We ended up camping right next to a ‘fixer upper’ right out of town. I counted four tailing piles, but I didn’t want to push my luck climbing around old mine shafts. We found some appetizers and washed ourselves down in Slaughterhouse Gulch. Nasty name for a picturesque book.

You Take the High Road, I’ll Take the Adventure Bike: Day 5

The next morning we would tackle the only pass road of the trip. I know, I know. I came to Colorado on an adventure bike and didn’t ride the passes?! Well, been there done that, and I’m a firm believer in ‘horses for courses”. In other words, muscling an 800lb pseudo streetbike two up through a scree field-turned-road isn’t my idea of fun. Hey, she’s light on her feet for a fat girl… we’ll come back on the dirtbikes and rip it up right proper.

We would then pass over Monarch pass, where we got our first real opportunity to don our rain gear in earnest! Rain, then hail, then BIG hail! At least it felt big. Had to pull over and wait that one out on order from the spousal unit. That storm would chase us all the way into Colorado Springs, where it decided it liked us and wanted to ruin our views for the next couple days. But not before regaling us with stories of hurricane force winds whilst traversing HWY 24. That’s another one you can skip, especially on a bike. My neck still hurts.

We’re both starting to get pretty ripe. That means it’s laundry day. We’ll be in Colorado Springs for a couple nights, so might as well hit the coin-op. I packed just enough, which means I bum one of wife’s extras. Hey, I know what I’m about. Over the next 36 hours, we enjoy some excellent food, burn up some amazing roads, and laugh at some incredibly cold mountain bike tourists. It was 28 degrees and wet at the top of Pike’s Peak, but at least the fog broke and awarded us the epic view we were suffering for. I tell ya, Pike’s Peak is a helluva thing with 30ft visibility.  

A Big Bike, A Small Dog, and a Long Dusty Road

Adventure comes in all shapes and sizes.  Here in Arizona, it usually involves the search for a secluded waterway where one can attain a reprieve from the baking sun and wash off the dust from the trail.

When most folks think of the deserts in Arizona they imagine a parched landscape full of cacti and broken dreams.  They’re right, but there is also a thriving ecology closely packed around a surprising number of lakes and rivers.   And when you live at 7,000 feet above sea level in Arizona, it snows the night before you leave for a trip to the desert.

What else can you do, but layer up, press on, and keep a vigilant eye on the forecast?  As so many of us today are corralled into set schedules and pre-planned vacations, sometimes simply pushing on is all you can do.  Despite the snowflakes falling outside, my wife and I packed our Super Ténéré for a weekend’s adventure to take the back [read: two-lane, twisty-windy, dirt road, and generally awesome] way to Alamo Lake, AZ.  There’s a saying in Flagstaff that “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” And this once again proved true as we jumped on a break in the snowstorm and pointed our bike South toward warmer weather, sun, and miles of twisty-windy two lane goodness.

Our route would take us on two lane roads from Jerome, through Prescott, and toward Bagdad (AZ!), and on toward the middle of nowhere, which as it happens, is near Nothing, AZ.  We were so busy enjoying this wonderful ribbon of tarmac, we missed our turn, and were ‘lost’, round 1.  After consulting the GPS, we found an alternate route; a 33 mile dirt road that was supposed to be a well maintained, smooth cruise.  Not so much. We were lost again, round 2.

Pretty soon, the washouts, sand, and several additional wrong turns had us re-thinking ourselves.  “Keep going. There’s a darn lake at the end of this.  How far have we gone?  Only Three miles! This is going to be a long afternoon…”

Perseverance won the day however, and before too long, we were cooking along in 5th gear on a wide, well-graded dirt highway.  Sometimes, all you need to fix the roads is to cross a county line.

As the miles ticked by, we started to get into the groove again.  Things were looking up, and we had plenty of daylight, plenty of fuel, and we hadn’t lost our mascot, Tortellini the turtle.  (Editor’s note:  Tortellini is known to fly out from his perch on the authors Ténéré from time to time.  This most commonly happens on rough roads or at high speeds. –Chad)  Before we knew it, we were looking for a campsite and changing into our swimsuits.  We had made it to Alamo Lake.

After a quick dip in the lake, some warm food, and making a campfire, we were watching another world-class Arizona sunset and reflecting on the day.

It seems like the farther I can get away from civilization, and the closer I can get to undeveloped wilderness, the more content I am.  The trivialities of life fade into the background as I soak in my surroundings.  I’m dusty, I’m hot, I’m exhausted and I’m away from everything that makes home so comfortable, yet I feel more content and more joyful than I do almost anywhere else.  After all, I’ve got my wife, my dog, and my motorcycle – what more could I ask for?