Rockies 2007

Day 07

June 20


Since this will be a short day, I sleep in late even for me. That is the nice thing about this cabin - with separate bedrooms you have all the privacy that you need. Soon we're both up an stirring around getting ready for the ride today to the Black Canyon and beyond. I tell Guy -

"I need to go by the Honda Shop to see if they have a part for my helmet."

When my faceshield blew off near Twin Falls, it broke one of the clips that holds it in place. If they have one in stock, it's a quick fix to accomplish. When we get to the shop, they're open but they don't have the part. I reconcile myself to the fact that I will be without a working faceshield for the rest of the trip. We get back on highway 50 and before long we're at a neat little two lane, highway 347, that turns off to take you into the park. It is a constant increase in elevation from the start until you arrive at the park sign.

  I get to use my national park pass again that I picked up in Yellowstone on this trip. Once we're in the park, we find that the park road had been recently paved and it is a smooth as it gets. There's a turn off that goes down the bottom of the canyon, so I lead the way.
  It a pretty steep decline, so I drop the SweetTreat into a lower cog and work my way down the numerous switchbacks, leaving Guy behind. I figure there's only one way down so he'll get there when he gets there. There seldom is a guardrail to be seen, so I take particular care to keep my eyes focused on the road. I don't want to take the express route straight to the bottom by any means.

As you get to the bottom, the sunlight dances across the flowing river and the steep canyon walls. Once again, I feel that I have entered into another of God's natural cathedrals as the quietness of the place comforts me like one of my momma's old quilts.


There's a really nice campground down here and Guy tells me -

"I'll have to come back and camp here on one of my next trips."

As we head back to the bikes, I tell Guy -

"We're probably still in the national park system from yesterday. So we'd better behave ourselves while we're in here. We sure don't want them to nail us again."

We make our way back to the top and follow the other park road. Each turn reveals another stunning view.

  The canyon so so steep that the dark green vegetation clinging to the walls often appears to be black instead of green. I have seen a lot of canyons, but this one ranks right up there near the top of my list.  
  As we go deeper and deeper into the park, we often pass each other when one of us pulls off to contemplate the views.  
  I see an observation point that might let me get a shot of the canyon depths, so I pull over to check it out. Guy catches up and has the same idea.  
  And sure enough, with a little careful footwork, I can get close enough to the edge to get a shot of the river far below. It sure is not the place for somebody to get a case of vertigo.  
  As we get toward the end of the road, the canyon begins to widen out a bit and the walls are a lot less sheer. At this point it looks like you could almost walk down them to the river - but I wouldn't want to try it.  
  Before the river wanders off to the wider plains, the green gives way to the brown canyon walls that are more like other canyons that I have visited.  
  At the end of the park you can see how the terrain eventually evens out and the canyon eventually becomes just another river valley.  

We make the loop at the end of the park and work our way carefully back to the entrance, observing all posted speed limits just in case there's another ranger in a SUV lurking. We wave good-bye to the ranger lady at the gate and head back out on highway 50 toward Gunnison. The scenery is nice, with the ever present mountains always in the background.


Before long, highway 50 turns into a real mess complete with lots of traffic and a construction zone. It seems like we are sitting still forever before the pilot truck comes to fetch us. To make matters worse, they are doing fresh chip and seal so we get to ride through a lot of gravel, grit and dirt. When we finally get going again, I let Guy know that I'll be needing gas before long. When we come to highway 92 turnoff, he just leads us straight into Gunnison. We gas at the first convenience store we find, then wander downtown looking for a lunch spot. I see what looks like a pretty good place. Parking is hard to come by, so Guy parks on one side of the street and I find a spot on the other side. Just before I go into the Ol' Miner Steakhouse, I notice that SweetTreat is leaning at a weird angle. The stand is slowly sinking into the soft asphalt so I get Guy to help me move her to a safer spot.


It's getting pretty hot so this place is a much welcomed shady spot. I order a prime rib sandwich and I have to say it's one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. Guy makes a few phone calls while he is there, catching up with the rest of his world. He is always amazed that I seldom call anybody while I'm on the road. But part of the reason I ride is to take a physical and mental break from the daily routine, not to connect at a distance. My wife knows that and only expects a call if there's something wrong. Our love and mutual trust is the key for us so we don't feel like we need to talk every day. At least that's what works for us and may not work for anybody else.

We finish up the excellent meal, and with full tanks and full bellies, we head back to pickup highway 92. It's another one of those great surprises that you often find on the road. It winds it's way up and down the high mountains giving plenty of opportunity for leaning. But we have to be careful as many of the curves have rocks and debris that has washed down off the mountainside. We stop often for pictures and pass one another in the process. I'm in the lead and decide to lengthen the SweetTreat's legs a bit. But I see a great spot for another shot, so I pull over.


Before long, Guy finally catches up with me -

"Uncle Phil, you've taken more pics the last 2 days then the previous year."

"Yeah been kinda nice." I tell him. I don't do much flower sniffing but today it just feels right.

Soon we come down out of the mountains into the hot grassy valley full of working farms and ranches. The temperature is climbing into the 90s and it's quite a shock from the places that we've just rode in from. When we reach Crawford, we decide to pull into the local store to take a break. There's a Buell and a BMW GS parked outside with their owners wisely seated inside around a table. I walk up to them -

"Hey what's goin on?"

"Not much, just hanging out."

They're two nice couples that have decide that this is as far as they go today. They are some motel rooms upstairs for rent so they figure that will work for them. When Guy and I go back aside, he says -

"They're gonna spend the night here?"

It does seem a bit odd since there's nothing here but the store and a few rooms. But I tell Guy -

"Well, some folks are just wired a little different."

"Yeah I guess so."

We both get some ice cream to try to cool off a bit and it does help some. But the rest of highway 92 is just a path through Hotchkiss, Lazera and Austin to get us back to the cabin and some cool air. By the time we get back to Delta where 92 joins 50, the temperature is pushing 100. We waste no time running down 50 to get back to Montrose. We have racked up 200+ miles for the day, but the last 50 miles or so was like riding in an oven. We both head for the drink machines to try to get our fluids replenished and cool off. After a bit of rest, we decide we'll give the old Red Barn another try for supper. It's a little more crowded tonight, with several bikes parked in the lot. When we get seated, Guy orders the same chicken thing that he ordered last night, and I go for the ribeye steak. I figure this will be the last 'easy' day for me, so I might as well celebrate at bit. We talk about many things, but we usually gravitate back to motorcycles and riding. I know that he just visited the headwaters of the Mississippi River, So I ask him -

"So what did you find up there?"

"Not much, a pond, and some wetlands, but it was pretty neat."

"I think I'm gonna take a ride that way soon, and down to Big Bend" I tell him.

"I had a good trip down there, you'll like it."

We share our funny road stories, then I tell him about my near extinction doing Lolo Pass. He tells me -

"I had that happen to me once but took me to the shoulder, what'd ya think?"

"Funny, I just said to myself 'Well I reckon this is how I go out" I answer.

We swing by a convenience store to get a bit of sweetening, and take the leisurely stroll back to the cabin. Our talk turns to my upcoming Alps trip and what my approach will be. Guy talks about going, but he is of a different opinion as to where he should start from and where he wants to go. He wants to leave from Germany, spend more time in the lowlands, visit a few W.W.II sites, then ride up to the Alps. I want rent out of the UK where I usually do, hook up and ride with my Brit friends Dave and Moff, do the Chunnel, then squeeze in as many Alpine passes as we can. Because of the expense, he wants to work in as much as he can which I understand. For me, it's more of a time factor and how much I can take at one time. Our heads are totally apart on this one and it is doubtful that they will come together. It doesn't mean that either of us are wrong, it's just that we have difference approaches. It's a lively discussion that at the end of it we agree to disagree. As I say,

"Good men can agree to disagree and not be disagreeable."

We talk about leaving out in the morning and where we've each got to get to. He wants to ride highway 50 across Monarch Pass and on into Kansas. I've already been there, done that and got the T-shirt. I tell him -

"I'm thinking of riding south into New Mexico, pick out a few roads, then finish up on I-40, I don't want deal with that construction zone on 50 again."

He tells me -

"Try SR 518 south out of Taos, pretty good road and it will take ya down to I-40, I'll see ya in the morning bro."

We both decide it's time to turn in, knowing we have some long days ahead of us.