In mid-August, it’s a crisp 42 degrees as we ride out of Estes Park. The heated grips and seats are on high. We had to wipe down our motorcycles to free them of the wet layer of morning dew, and my foggy windshield hasn’t quite cleared up yet. The sun is low and we’re riding east. I’m thinking about how epic this trip to Colorado has been. As I glance to the side of the road, a big deer leaps onto the shoulder. We stare each other down, one waiting on the other to react…
Denver to Cascade – 86 miles
Thanks to meticulous planning, our small riding group (Christa, our lucky website contest winners, Jim Williamson and Sue Lauer, and I), arrives at Denver International Airport within 45 minutes of one another. We had spoken on the phone beforehand to go over the details and chat a bit so it didn’t feel like meeting strangers. Actually, motorcyclists are never complete strangers—riding already lays the foundation for great conversation and friendship.
We take a shuttle to Lakewood, where G-Force Powersports has the three Victory motorcycles prepped and ready for our five-day adventure. Although both Jim and Sue ride motorcycles, they decided to ride two-up for this special occasion. I’ve been to lots of dealerships, but G-Force stands out for their exceptional customer service.
We pack our luggage into the cavernous side- and topcases of our 2013 Cross Country Tours and Vision, program our GPS route, and head west, then south. If we would have waited any longer, we probably would have melted in the heat.
It’s rush hour. A bustling Highway 285 takes us up the mountains before dipping south on 126 to 67. Highway 126 opens up before us with the first real view of what lies ahead–mountain peaks wherever we look. The road snakes its way along a valley following a small river. Other than the occasional gravel spots at side roads, conditions are perfect.
Motorcycles & Gear
2013 Victory Cross Country Tour
2013 Victory Cory Ness Cross Country Tour
2013 Victory Vision
Dark clouds loom in the distance all afternoon. When we stop for gas in Woodland Park, it seems as if our luck will run out. Rocky Mountain Lodge in Cascade is only ten minutes away. It’s drizzling lightly, but it’s already 8 p.m. so we decide to get dinner before stopping for the night. The Wines of Colorado is the only close restaurant, and it’s a great choice. Delicious soups and a variety of main courses replenish our own fuel tanks.
Upon arriving at the Rocky Mountain Lodge, we learn the rules: “Breakfast is at 8:30,” and “Don’t leave food in the motorcycle compartments or the bears will find it!”
Cascade to Leadville – 221 miles
Jim and Sue are both avid bicyclists as well as motorcyclists, but because the only two wheels around are outfitted with an engine, they opt for a jog in the morning. At 7,379 feet, however, jogging is a little different than it is in their hometown Coeur d’Alene’s altitude of 2,180 feet. Exercise in the morning is always a good idea, especially if you plan to ride on a motorcycle all day. Plus, you can explore the area even more.
At breakfast we learn that the entrance to Pikes Peak is just across the street and it is now fully paved to the top (14,110 feet). Just a week prior, Carlin Dunne broke his previous record and won his second Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S. His time? Nine minutes and 52 seconds. Just out of curiosity, we time our ascent. Our time? Just under one hour—but, to be fair, we stopped twice for photos. The views are magnificent at the top. A park ranger informs us that wild fires in Utah and Idaho are responsible for the light haze covering the distant mountains. Not only is it tough for our eyes to see into the distance, the cameras struggle as well to capture Colorado’s epic mountain ranges.
It’s noon by the time we descend back into Cascade. With about 183 miles to go, we open the throttles and cover some ground. Of course, just when I think I can’t be distracted any more, a Honda ST 1300 pulls up beside me. After a quick exchange as to our destination, he motions us to follow. Although we have a tight schedule, what’s the worst that could happen? I never turn down the help of a local rider. Just ten minutes later, we all pull off on Twin Rocks Road (not our intended route), and he introduces himself as Mike Hutchison. When Mike assures us that this short detour is well worth it, it’s good enough for me. Twin Rocks twists and turns contrary to our original route of Highway 24. Our detour takes us past Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument before getting back on track. Now Mike is following us. I’d been telling him that we’re doing an article for the magazine, and thanks to the internet, he had commented on our Facebook page that same day. When we steer the Victory bikes right onto County Road 77, however, the Honda keeps going straight and I wonder why. Ten miles later the sign ahead reads, “Damaged road next 24 miles.” Now I know.