Our route out of Rawlins, WY, takes us through the city’s center before turning south and heading out of town. It is a great day for riding, with mostly clear skies and cool temperatures, as we enter the Medicine Bow National Forest. Not far from the Colorado border we come upon Aspen Alley, a peaceful place where aspen trees line the side of the road. Each state we have passed through has had unique scenery, and just beyond the Colorado border, smooth, round mountains are joined by jagged crags reaching up from the earth. Passing through the Routt National Forest roughly 120 miles into the day, we find ourselves on a technically demanding section of road. After a sudden climb, large stones, ruts, and mud demand our full attention for miles. We stay dry, but it’s obvious that it has rained here recently, and the slippery, moss-covered rocks that make up the trail add to the challenge of keeping upright.
By midday, we arrive in the resort town of Steamboat Springs. After refueling, we reward ourselves with a slice of pizza (or two) at a downtown eatery. Most days, “lunch” means a protein bar or fruit on the trail and this is a welcome change. Riding through Colorado, we are once again in free-range country, where cattle are a thing to be reckoned with. Not long after our first real water crossing, courtesy of a branch of the Colorado River, we pick up a fantastically smooth ribbon of pavement that leads us to Kremmling to bed down for the evening.
A good night’s rest and we are back under way, high above Breckenridge by way of the Boreas Pass. The dark clouds that have been looming overhead most of the morning bring a short shower by midday, but it moves on quickly. South of the pass, we roll through the tiny town of Hartsel, where we pause briefly before continuing on to Salida, our destination for the day.
The Halfway Point
After more than 1,500 miles and eight nonstop days on the road, Dave and I decide to stay in the Salida area for a day in order to explore a little and perform some needed maintenance on our bikes. After spending the morning checking out St. Elmo, a ghost town, we take advantage of the fact that our luggage is stowed back at the hotel by making a run up and down Tincup Pass. Located just outside of town, the very rocky and steep road is quite popular among thrill seekers. Free of the added weight, our motorbikes run the pass like gazelles. After a bit of fun, it’s time to get back to business, and by midday we are in search of a location to do a tire and oil change. Stopping at Rushton’s Automotive in downtown Salida, we speak with Dustin, the shop’s owner. As good fortune would have it, Dustin is an avid motorcyclist and more than happy to help, providing not only a location to do the work but a few extra tools that come in very handy. Once again, we are indebted to a stranger for going out of his way to help us. After the maintenance is complete, we enjoy a great meal and entertainment in the form of a one-man band at a downtown restaurant before returning to our hotel.
The Highest Pass and the Roughest Roads