Updated Dec 5, 2015
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Michael J. Fox mentions in one of his books the positive effects of high altitude on his Parkinson’s. With respect for his condition, I think I can understand why. Even with all of Denver’s beautiful roads begging to be caressed by a motorcycle, it’s difficult to “just leave” such a beautiful city.
Regardless of last night’s dinner and drinks and with less than six hours of sleep to my name, I feel energized and refreshed; ready to see what curves lie ahead. Travis is asleep on the patio even though our hosts have a day bed not thirty feet away. Maybe he subjects himself to this torture as an offering to the God of speed.
Foggy heads and all, we wander around in attempts to gather our senses before packing for what we anticipate to be some of the best riding of the trip. While Travis reorganizes his luggage, we both smell the fermented stench of our rain gear, ripe with that “natural Nebraskan cattle farm flavor”. We’re not going anywhere without doing laundry. Moreover, my own rain gear is so bad that it probably shouldn’t be washed with the rest of our clothes. I opt to strap it to the top of my tail bag, inviting the sun’s ultraviolet rays to kill the bacteria within.
Laundry finished and groomed for the day, we slowly make our way to the garage where we go through the motions of inspection. I observe that I’m low on oil, so we plan to hit an AutoZone. The nearest on our route is next to a decent brunch that’s next to a legal head shop (something I promise myself to investigate). Travis, being Mormon [sarcasm], doesn’t partake in said “shopping”.
Fed and not needing any oil after all, we begin the day’s ride at 1pm and even then the traffic proves to be difficult. That isn’t to say it’s Chicago difficult but it’s definitely less than “flowing”. After fifteen minutes of minor frustration, the real riding is about to begin.
We turn left onto US-6.
There are still pockets of traffic on this road but passing lanes appear every few miles and it’s certainly the most beautiful riding we’ve seen to this point. Tunnels, river valleys and canyons twist, sweep and overlook at every turn. All kinds of different landscapes and foliage present themselves, their survival depending purely on an altitude window of a few hundred feet.
US-6 is mostly rock throughout the canyon. We eventually pick up I-70 which is like an expressway but not really since it’s contours are at the mercy of the mountainous region around it. Long story short, if you’re going to be on the slab, this is the slab to be on.
Then we turn onto US-40, heading over the Berthoud Pass (amazing). This is where I learn of the term “switchback” courtesy of Travitron’s experience. I’m familiar with their concept but am learning the physical definition for the first time.
There are pockets of traffic on this road but passing lanes appear every few miles and it's certainly the most beautiful riding we've seen to this point.
The Berthoud Pass reaches 11,000 feet and is slated right to the edge of the tree line. You can see peaks close by. I’ve never seen roads like this before. The Rocky Mountains are astonishing, making a lasting impression. It’s as if the true context of this ride is finally presenting itself.
My Bandit shows no sign of fuel/air mixture problems. The ride down from each high point is fun, albeit a little sketchy. The road is more worn here than during our ascension. Sailing through the curves, we land in Winter Park before beginning yet another climb. Bring it on.
In a span of forty minutes, the temperature changes by thirty degrees, shifting from seventy-five to forty-five and back. Even the cold temps are comfortable because the air is so thin and dry, without much of a breeze. There’s also the fact that the complexity of the road is keeping us occupied.
Climbing again, we notice signs for hot sulfur springs that point to luxury resorts. Between Kremling and Steamboat Springs, a collection of chalets suggests typically incredible Colorado skiing. Distant and secluded, this is where the rich go to get away.
Just before Steamboat Springs, as the roadway begins to dive downward once more, we’re caught off guard by the stunning view of Lake Catamount. A shimmering glaze of clear green, even the surrounding mountains don’t compare. It’s as if liquid emerald marks our halfway point.
Despite the landscape leveling off, the road remains stellar. What were short, choppy switchbacks are now extended sweepers, built for high speed leaning. Without the threat of hairpins or cliffside hazards, we can open the throttle with a mandatory smirk.
Eventually arriving at Dinosaur National Monument (on the Colorado side), we’re peeved to discover that the road into the campground is thirteen miles of rough dirt, meaning it’s designated for high clearance vehicles only. Travis insists that my road bike won’t make it, though I suspect he’s incorrect. If I can just … get … momentum …
What really bothers me is that up to now we’ve done everything right and are still within the boundaries of our camping rulebook (rule #1: set up camp before dark or book a motel). Our smartphones say we have just enough light remaining to ring out the throttle and ride towards Dino’s Utah entrance. We opt to give it a go.
On arrival, we’re thinking about food and sleep. The further into the campground we go, the further we are from food. Socially, we’re diverting all power to our “lizard brain” so as to avoid argument.
Setting up camp mostly in the dark, the final hint of light is just enough to get our equipment off and organized for coordinated use. I take great pride in the fact that I’ve only pieced my tent together once before (in my condo). With minimal confusion about it’s rain liner, we’re able to get both tents ready without waking other campers nearby.
So, we each have a roof over our head and gear ready for use. It’s time to stuff our face before sleeping under the stars. We roll into the nearest town to find that everything’s closed. Go figure. Completely out of our heads at this point (I’m losing my d@mn mind blood-sugar style), we find a Denny’s about thirty miles from Dinosaur.
Denny’s good. Food good. No talky talky.
All communication ceases until the next morning and, honestly, that’s the best way to suggest mutual understanding without harming a friendship: just shut up!
The stars over Dinosaur heal everything. Coming from a camping family, in all of my experience, I’ve never seen a brighter night’s sky. I remain in awe of what’s been an exceptional day.
Ready for more? Day Five: Dinosaur National Monument to Burley
What’s Your Favorite Sport Touring Motorcycle Route From Denver To Dino?
There are many twisty, scenic travel options connecting the two. Which roads do you prefer and why? Where do you like to stop along the way? Your input is invited. Post an article!