Riding northern Colorado means climbing through the Rockies and cruising past wide-open cattle country. The roaming up and down near the Wyoming border encompasses some of the most thrilling areas for motorcycling we've experienced.
It's a perfect day for motorcycling. Fresh pine-scented air blows by and temperatures are comfortable enough, in the eighties - not too warm, especially for mid-July. Our leathers won't get soaked from sweat and our tires can build up plenty of heat to grab the asphalt. We can throw the bikes into the corners, and swing through the turns almost as if on automatic. On one of my favorite roads, State Road 72 toward Rollinsville, we make a short stop at the Wondervu Café in Wondervu where many people break their rides for drinks or breakfast and lunch.
But Monika and I still have a long way to go. No time for dawdling here. We cross the Amtrak railway trail that goes up to the big ski resorts like Winter Park and a few miles later we turn north on SR 72 heading toward Nederland and Estes Park. Wildflower colors explode by the side of the road. Horseback riders and hikers course the hillsides here and there. As Longs Peak (14,256 ft.) glints majestically to the left, all is right with the world and the Triumph even seems to concur with the roaring of its air box and pipe.
Estes is busy with tourists enjoying their weekend mountain retreats. Downtown we take a left turn onto US 36 and hand over the $ 15 fee for entrance into the Rocky Mountain National Park - certainly steep for some, but the views from the pass road are worth every penny. Accentuating the fantastic peak scenery, deer and elk roam near the road. Wandering over the shoulder, a pokey coyote brings traffic to a standstill while crossing the pavement. His tongue lolling, he swivels nonchalantly as if to say, "What's the deal here? This is my pantry!" Cautiously, respecting his preserve, the air-conditioned interlopers roll on.
Even along points at higher elevation, the road surface is in amazing shape considering the rough climate up here. So, it's not only fun but also safe to ride through any of the twisties. Running somewhat out of its low-range power in the thin air at these altitudes, the Daytona needs a bit more revving.
At the highest point of Trail Ridge Road (12,183 ft.), there's an amazing view to Jackstraw Mountain (11,704 ft.), Mount Ida (12,880 ft.), Mount Julian (12,928 ft.), and Terra Tomah Mountain (12,718 ft.). The numerous trail signs entice a lot of car- and bike-weary leg stretching. Stopped, and preparing the camera to capture images of the high-mountain wilderness, we're distracted by a trio of chipmunks skittering closer to our seats on a rock wall. It seems a heroic approach, and the first time it doubtless was. But too many nutrients tossed by unthinking travelers have changed the critters. Reward ("Oh, how cute! Are you hungry?") far outweighs the risk. The harm may have been done and their behavior irreversibly modified, but we're not about to further the process. And the same goes for the marmots that haven't had time to read our latest memo, now fast approaching for grub in little Chip, Dale and his brother Larry's wake. Never this close to marmots before, I have to admit I probably owe a great photo experience to thousands of roadside cracker crumbs.
Making our way down again, the Daytona feels better and runs smoothly while rolling to Grand Lake and Lake Granby. Snug harbors there are alive with sails inviting another time-stealing repose.