With an abundance to see and do, Colorado is a tourist mecca for good reason. While many flock to explore the beauty and rugged wilderness (whether hiking, rafting or mountain biking), we made plans to visit some of the old mining and railroad towns that sprouted up in the mid to late 1800s. All of them rely on the past to stay vibrant, and it seems fitting that we’ll be contributing to their economies when arriving on our vintage-inspired Triumphs.
Back to the Future
It’s an unusually warm June day in southern Colorado as we prepare for the first day of exploration. My wife Kris is riding a 2014 Thruxton and I am on a customized 2010 Bonneville. Our luggage stocked with an ample supply of water, we depart from our home base at the High Country Lodge, just east of Pagosa Springs. Before long we’re climbing into the San Juan Mountains toward Wolf Creek Pass and the Continental Divide. The smooth winding road is mostly free of traffic and as the dense forest replaces pastures, a canopy of green envelopes us. With nature’s drama taking hold, I roll on the throttle and the mighty Triumph Twin roars up the twisty tarmac to pass the summit at 10,857 ft.
Turning onto the Silver Thread Scenic Byway (CO 149), we follow the Rio Grande for several miles. The pristine blacktop wanders by the waterway and snowcapped mountains appear in the distance. As the sun peaks through lofty clouds, we arrive in the town of Creede. Once home to Robert Ford, the man who killed Jesse James, the city boasted a population of over 10,000 residents in the mid 1890s, owing to the discovery of silver in the area. As the mines closed over the years, the population declined. Today, the historic town is home to roughly 300, and the week before our visit, Creede celebrated its 125th birthday.
Recommended Lodging: High Country Lodge
Just east of Pagosa Springs, the motorcycle-friendly High Country Lodge is a good choice as a base for touring the area. Hwy 160 is right out front and serves as a pipeline to and from breathtaking scenery and fantastic riding. The full-service hotel offers lodge-style rooms as well as private cabins. Complimentary breakfast is served each morning, and there is also a private half-mile hiking trail on the property. Rooms include a microwave, flat-panel TV, and Wi-Fi. They have self-service laundry facilities on-site as well, and parking is ample and free. Mona and the rest of the staff at the High Country Lodge were quite helpful and ensured that Kris and I had a great stay. Find the High Country Lodge at 3821 E Hwy 160, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147, (970) 264-4181.
Rolling into town, it’s easy to see why Creede draws its fair share of tourists each year. Set before a backdrop of sheer cliffs, the main street of 1890s storefronts presents a spectacular view that quickly transports us to days gone by.
Just north of the city center, we come upon the town’s volunteer fire department, which, incredibly, is housed in the side of a mountain. We pause there briefly to snap a few shots of the exterior while deciding that our plans for the day needed adjustment and ought to include more wandering about in downtown Creede.
After checking out a few of the gift shops, we pay a visit to the Creede Historical Museum which is housed in the old Denver-Rio Grande Railway Depot. The exhibits showcase several artifacts from the town’s early days, including a cell from the town’s first jail and a restored hand-powered fire pumper. For me, the many well-preserved “smalls” (items of clothing, underwear) from homesteads and ranches are well worth the $ 2 admission.
Motorcycle & Gear
2010 Triumph Custom Bonneville
2014 Triumph Thruxton
We stop in at Kip’s Grill for a bite to eat before we are back in the saddle and rejoin CO 149 and head north out of town. The smooth two-lane road snakes alternately through forest and pasture, and as we climb and descend the long, slow-turning switchbacks, traffic is light to nonexistent, affording us opportunities to survey our constant companion, the majestic Colorado scenery.
After refueling in Gunnison, we turn south onto CO 114 and begin a gradual ascent toward the Continental Divide at North Pass and into the Rio Grande National Forest. Near Del Norte ominous clouds appear in the distance. Before long, I notice a few raindrops on the shield of my helmet, and then a light but steady shower keeps us company for several miles as we climb over Wolf Creek Pass again.