Rockies 2007

Day 06

June 19


Bill and I are up getting ready for the day, but Guy is still in the sack checking his eyelids for holes. Finally Sleeping Beauty gets up and joins us.  

"Well, what's the plan for today?" I ask him.

Guy doesn't have one as such so I break out the atlas and go to looking. I tell him -

"We for sure want to do the Million Dollar Highway and after that I don't really care."

"Well, we can go down to Telluride, then over Lizard Head Pass and then do 550" Guy suggests.

"Looking at the map, we should be able to swing over to Mesa Verde then come back up 550. It'll be a nice day and not too long" I add.

With a plan in place, Bill decides he'll ride with us south to Ridgeway since he's headed back to Tennessee this morning. He'll keep on down 550 and we'll head toward Telluride on 62. As Bill packs his heavily loaded Yamaha cruiser way above his head, I tell Guy -

"Buddy, I relinquish the packing crown to Bill. I can't hold to candle that pile of stuff."

After a bit of good nature ribbing, we encourage him to just keep after it. The more trips you make, the more you get a feel for what you need and what you don't. Guy and I have totally different ideas of what's 'necessary'. Not that either view is wrong, it's just different. He has to have two pillows, and me, I can roll up a shirt for one and be perfectly happy. But now when it comes to being prepared for fixing stuff, I probably have enough tools to do most anything except a complete engine rebuild. And this morning it comes in handy for Guy. Guy is checking his tires and he's about 3 pounds low. I already have my compressor out of my doctor's bag and so I hand it over to him -

"Here, use this compressor while I got it out."

Once again I'm glad to able to help my friend. His wife Debbie says she never worries when I'm along - she knows I'll have the stuff to look after him. From duct tape to fix his mirror from a New York tipover, to warm clothes and rain gloves on our UK adventure, to even cash when his ATM card quit working - I've done it and glad to have been able to do it. As I always say -

"Better to have something and not need it, than to need something and not have it."

He gets his tires back in spec, and we're on the road this beautiful Colorado morning. The ride getting out of town is nothing special, but it's good to be on 2 lanes again. Now that I've bagged the statelines for SweetTreat like I did for Redbird, I feel like I can ease back on the distance throttle a little bit. I am much more goal oriented in my riding than Guy, but we still share a lot of common philosophies about life on the road.

Bill leaves us as we turn onto highway 62 and we wish well and safe riding. Soon the the scenery gets to be much more interesting.

  The road turns in to a series of sweet sweepers and I just follow Guy for a while, soaking up the scenery and the mountain views. We swap the lead back and forth as the mood strikes us, just two old Southern boys enjoyed the mountains. We've ridden a lot of miles together all over the place, and it just works out well when we do get together to ride.  

We think about going into Telluride, but it will mean a long journey down in to the valley. After getting stuck for quite a while in a construction zone, we decide to bag it and just stay on highway 145 toward Lizard Head Pass. When we stop at Trout Lake, there's a couple of nice looking Goldwings sitting their, and the couples are admiring the view. They move their bikes down a little bit so we can get some shots with our STs in them. And what an incredible view it is!


They tell us they're from Florida and are up here just riding and enjoying the scenery. When we are back to ourselves, I tell Guy with a wink -

"Buddy, they either spend an awful lot of time cleaning their bikes or else they trailered 'em up here. Those things are incredibly clean to have been ridden all the way from Florida."

My poor old SweetTreat has the bugs and dirt of thousands of miles all over her on this trip, but she wears them as a badge of experience.

Before long we pull up to Lizard Head Pass.

  It's kind of surprising because it's sort of flat - not the kind of pass that I think of in the Rockies. Guy has to do some adjusting of his knitting before we move on.  

Neither one of us is in a big hurry today so when Guy finds an interesting site to pull off, I follow him on in. There's a beautiful mountain stream flowing near by, and you can see the remnants of many campfires on the banks. I tell Guy -

"Not a bad place for a feller to camp if he wanted to."

We talk about how neat it is that we can come all the way out here, and have the time to stop and see scenes like this. We both realized how blessed we are to be at this stage in our lives.


As we ride on, my stomach reminds me that breakfast didn't happen this morning. We decide to stop at a restaurant call Fargo in Cortez for an early lunch. As is his usual, Guy gets on the phone and connects with Debbie and some other folks. Lunch is good and the service is fine and we make short work of it. As we head back out to the bikes, Guy pipes up -

'Uncle Phil, by the time we get back to Montrose we're gonna come in around 350."

I just grin at him and say "Yeah, but whose counting?"

Highway 160 gets us to park's front door quickly. I remember the last time that I was here and the park was burning. The ranger would not let me pass, so maybe this time I'll finally get in.


The lady at the entrance booth warns us that the road is under construction, so we need to watch out for loose gravel. Although it's around 20 miles to the major dwellings, we take our time, try to dodge the gravel and rough pavement, and enjoy the views. I did not realize that the historical site was actual so far up in the mountains.

  The main viewing point is a bit crowded as people are gathering around for the next guided tour, but I manage to get a 'peopleless' picture of the site. As I stand there gazing, it truly amazes me how they built such impressive structures up here and yet grew crops on top of the mesa. I figure they must have been in really good shape from climbing up and down all of those ladders. But then one day they just all seemed to have disappeared and left it all behind.
  On the way back to the parking lot, I see a small individual structure tucked beneath the overhang. I guess these folks were like me - they didn't like to live in middle of a bunch of people.  

As we pull out of the parking lot, I notice a lady ranger in an SUV sitting there watching us. I just smile and nod and mount up. Shortly afterwards, we get stuck behind a RV kicking up all kinds of dust and gravel. Guy's allergies are killing him and I figure the extra 'dusting' sure ain't helping him. He pulls out around the RV on a double yellow and goes on. I check my rear view mirrors and see a white SUV a ways back. I say to myself -

"Is that that ranger or not?"

But I can't tell cause of all the crud that the RV is now kicking up at me. After much hesitation, I finally follow Guy around on the double yellow. When I do, my heart sinks because I see the SUV moving up quickly then pull on the blue light special. I slow down, hoping she is going to pass me, but not today. She motions for me to go ahead until I can find a place to pull off - which happens to be right where Guy is parked waiting for me. The ranger lady is very professional and she gets out of her SUV -

"You know why I stopped you guys?" she asks.

"I know why," Guy chimes in his best pitiful poor southern boy manner.

"You passed the RV double yellow" she adds.

"Yes ma'am, I did that, it wasn't that he wasn't going fast enough, but he was kicking up all kinds of debris and pelting the stew out of me, but I'm wrong for doing that."

I've got nothing to say cause I figure no use of pouring gasoline on a burning fire. We both hand her our paperwork. She asks Guy -

"Do you have more then 1 bike? These numbers don't agree."

"I do have more then 1 bike ma'am, lemme check if I handed you the right copy." Guy tells her. "See here it is, ATJ 673, same as my plate."

"OK now I see. "Both of you step back from the bikes. You can talk, just don't get too close to each other, I'll be right back."

She goes back to her vehicle to check us out and see if we are serial killers or any such stuff.

Guy confidently tells me -

"Look here brother, we ain't gettin a ticket today, I can feel it, she spent too much time chatting, she's gonna check us out and let us 2 southern boys go."

"Man I hope you're right" I tell him.

She comes back and Guy puts the old charm on -

"Look here ma'am, if y'all are holdin any warrants on Uncle Phil, I just met him back in the parking lot."

She smiles and tells us "You guys are good to go, Just slow down, stop passing on the double yellow."

I tell her, "I feel like giving you a great big hug - but I won't."

She says, "I don't think that would be appropriate."

"Well I know, I just said I felt like doing it." I tell her.

So thanks to Mr. Charm and the Blarney Stone, we escape without hitch. But we do carefully mind the speed limit all the way out of the park. Once we hit 160, we're off again until we stop in Durango for a break and some gas.

Guy gives me a high 5 and says -

"Brother we must be doin something right."

"Yeah, but don't let it go to your head, we still gotta get home" I remind him.

We head up highway 550 out of Durango. It's not too impressive to begin with, but that sure changes in a hurry. We decide to take a break at Molas Pass and there are several Navajo ladies selling native jewelry. I pick out a nice piece to take back to my lovely wife, Sharyn. As we continue north, it becomes apparent to me why they call this "The Million Dollar Highway". From almost every turn, you get a million dollar view!


The road is carved out of the steep mountainsides and follows the terrain. I take the lead as we sweep through the mountain passes beneath the overpowering peaks. There's few guardrails, so you have to be careful that the scenery doesn't overpower your good sense cause it's a long way down to the bottom.


It seems around every turn the views just get better and better. We pull off frequently to take pictures and just soak up the natural beauty around us. Sometimes you are riding in the bright sunlight and sometimes you are in the shadows of a steep gorge. After a while we realize that you just can't stop at every turn or we will never make it back to Montrose.


As we near the town of Ouray, we see the sign - "Switzerland of America". It's a beautiful place nestled amongst the mountains and somewhere a feller would like to spend some time.


But the sun is starting to sink and we don't want to be caught out in these mountain roads where water can turn to ice very quickly. Once we get pass Ouray, the road flattens out and turns into just another road to Montrose. After 300+ miles for the day, we get back to our cabin around 4 PM. We walk through the back way into the main office. The folks have pretty much given us the run of the place, which is really nice. I ask the lady behind the counter -

"Where's the closest steak house around here?"

She tells me, "It just closed up. There's not one left in town."

"Well, what about that Red Barn Inn just down the road a piece?"

She's pretty quick with her reply -

"I don't eat there and the customers that go there give it mixed reviews."

We thank her and Guy and I walk back toward our room. I look at Guy and say -

"You know, there's no telling what has happened between this place and the Red Barn as to why she steers her customers away. We oughta try it, we might be surprised."

It's the only place within walking distance besides Arby's, so we decide we will give it a whirl. We get cleaned up and take the short stroll down the road to the Red Barn. I don't know if we just hit it on a good night or not, but as it turns out, it's actually quite good. Guy goes for his usual chicken thing and me for something with red meat in it so I can keep my cholesterol up where I can watch it. It's an unusual evening for us both because we're usually together in large rides and don't get much time to spend just talking about our rides, where we've been and where we're going. We kind of figure that between the two of us, we've covered an awful lot of roads in this great land of ours. We finish up our excellent meal, and then wander back to our cabin to continue our discussions. Before we head for bed, we decide that we'll head for the Black Canyon tomorrow, then to Gunnison and back on 92. That will make for nice short day since it will be the last one for both of us before we hit the road to home. With that decided, I go to my room to see if my eyelids are letting in any light when they are closed.