Entries in Colorado 2011 (11)


Day 9: According to the plan... or not

One of the things we had planned while in Chicago was visiting the Dainese store (one of our favourite motorcycle clothing brands), so we'd checked the store hours and location ahead of time.  The store is in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago.  After picking up a rental car this morning, we set off for Schaumburg.  Upon arriving at the store, we noticed a little sign on the door labelled "Summer Hours".  Yup, the shop is closed on Sundays.  In a classy customer service move the website is of course not updated with this information.  Good going guys!  Strike one.

Our other thought was to head over to Oak Park to check out some of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses that we'd seen several years ago.  Of course, this isn't going to work either, it's been raining all bloody morning.  Strike two.

We have now spent the last 45 minutes hanging out at a... Starbucks of all places.  I thought I would lower myself and frequent a Starbucks to make use of their free wi-fi to get online and do some research as to what else we could do.  It would appear that all of the local motorcycle dealerships are also closed on Sunday.  Strike three.

So what now?  Well, we may venture into a mall for a little bit and otherwise we'd decided that we'll just head to the airport and be there way early.  In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor letdown.  The rest of the trip was fantastic and more or less went off according to plan without a hitch.



Day 8: Chicago

Today was another lazy day. We only had 2 things on our agenda that we wanted to do: watch a Cubs game and visit Threadless. After enjoying a light breakfast at our hotel, we met up with our friend Jason who would be coming with us to see the game.

We took the local transit to Wrigley Field. Our train was packed with Cubs fans. Our train ride was probably about 25 minutes long. When we arrived at the station where the stadium was located, it looked like all the passengers vacated the train. Although there were many people lined up to enter Wrigley, everyone entered fairly quickly. Wrigley Field is one of the two oldest baseball stadiums in the U.S. We were a little surprised at how small the stadium was, but that meant that all the seats allowed the viewer to be close to the action on the field. Another surprising local feature was bleachers on the tops of adjacent buildings to the stadium. We enjoyed the game and the atmosphere. The attendance was close to capacity at 41,000. And an added bonus: the home team won!

After the game, we strolled over to Threadless. Apparently Jason did a bit of research before hand and finished his shopping and completed his purchase in 5 minutes flat. Matt and I took our time looking at the t-shirts on display and chatting with the staff. We both picked out a couple of shirts each. It turns out that Threadless brings in new shirts every week on Fridays. We get the feeling that Jason may be making more frequent trips into Chicago to check out their shirts. ;)

Since we didn't have anything else planned, we decided to meet up with a couple of friends of Jason and go out to dinner together. At Jason's suggestion, we headed to Carson's when the first place we tried fell through (they were just closing up). I think Jason picked the longest possible walking route to Carson's. By the time we arrived there, we were all famished and definitely ready to eat. Everyone ordered an entree that included ribs in some fashion. Very satisfying.

Today's weather turned out much better than we originally expected. We had expected rain, all day, all weekend. As it turns out, the rain only came down (like crazy!) from around 1 am until about 9 am. And then stayed mostly overcast for the rest of the day. We totally lucked out. We'll see if our luck holds tomorrow!

Thanks again, Jason, for being our pseudo-guide today. =)   


Day 7: Leaving Colorado

Today was a sad day for us. We would be returning to Denver to drop off our bikes with Ben. After a quick breakfast, we packed up our bikes, closed up the chalet, and headed out. Our final ride with Bill and Jackie went by fairly quickly. We left Ouray around 8:30 am and arrived in Denver around 3:00 pm. At a couple of our gas and rest stops, Matt was asked by locals about his bike. Funny enough, this happens rather rarely. Most people ask about my bike and ignore Matt's. ;)

When we arrived in Denver, we were surprised to see that very few bikes had arrived before us. Although our bikes would be travelling home with 2 fewer bikes (2 people had alternate plans once the Colorado trip finished up), only 4 other bikes were there when the 4 of us rolled up. We quickly repacked our luggage and only took only what was necessary for our trip to Chicago. We said goodbye to our bikes again and watched as they were loaded onto the trailer. We also said goodbye to Ben, Jackie and Bill. What a fantastic adventure. We had an amazing time. =) Thank you to Ben for organizing everything so well. It was an awesome experience! Thank you to Bill, Jackie, and David for putting up with us for the week. Again, great company and great food. We will meet again! 

We caught a hotel shuttle back to Denver International Airport. We had lots of time to spare. Luckily for us, this meant that we found out our assigned gate had been re-assigned. We were also able to get upgraded seats (more leg room for Matt!) for no additional cost. After we got all of that sorted out, we grabbed a bite to eat, got Matt a caffienated beverage, and then waited patiently at the correct gate. Our flight was delayed by 15 minutes because the previous plane was late on its departure. We were still able to arrive at Chicago on time. Despite the forecast of miserable weather (rain, rain, and more rain), there was no precipitation when we arrived in Chicago, and none when we arrived at our hotel. But: it is raining now. I guess this is a sign that we should go to bed.

Hello, Chicago. And good night!

The gang from the Whispering Pines chalet:

Whispering Pines gang


Day 6: Arches National Park

Last night I did a bit of research on breakfast places that opened before 7 am. Our plan was to leave by 7 am in order to arrive at Arches National Park before 7:30am. We settled on a coffee shop that was within walking distance of the hotel that opened at 6:30 am. After a quick breakfast, we loaded up our bikes and headed to the park. The park was spectacular. I was amazed at how large it was. Our first stop was at the Visitor Centre. We verified the hiking trails we would doing and then set out to the trail heads. Our first trail was to Broken Arch. The hike probably took just over an hour. Luckily, part of the hike was in the shade. We only hiked to the arch itself, even though the trail continued. We turned back after a short rest at the arch. Our next destination was Delicate Arch Viewpoint. Although we would have liked to have hiked to Delicate Arch, it would have been a 3 hour affair. So we just gazed on the arch from afar. Our final point of interest in the park was Balanced Rock. It certainly lived up to its name!

Our excursion into and around the park took about 4 hours. We could have definitely spent a few days exploring the park. We may return to the park in the future to continue our explorations.

Our ride back to Ouray was mostly uneventful. We tried to stop only for very short breaks for water and snacks. We knew that we had to return as soon as possible to hand over some luggage for transporation to Denver. When we arrived at our chalet, Ben was already waiting for us. We quickly packed up the things that would travel back to Denver with him, chatted a few minutes, and said our goodbyes. We milled around for another 15 minutes or so and then headed back out again. Matt wanted to get one more ride on the Million Dollar Highway before returning home.

There was a little miscommunication regarding our ride. Remember the heartstopping ascent with no guardrails and crazy hairpin turns? Matt rode ahead of me and at one point disappeared into the distance. When I crested a hill near the scenic outlook that we had stopped at on Monday, I had no idea where he was. So I turned into the scenic outlook. Of course, that's when I saw that Matt had actually continued up the road instead of making the turn like I did. What a comedy of errors. I circled back out of the parking area and headed up again. Halfway up a turn, wasn't Matt on his way back down again. We spoke on our bluetooth communicators for a few seconds and agreed that I would turn around and meet him at the scenic outlook. I had a little misadventure when trying to turn around on a huge gravel area: yes, I laid it down. Luckily, I wasn't even moving when it happened. If nothing else, it was just embarassing to have to wait until some nice people stopped to help me out. They were all concerned that I may have hurt myself, and were relieved when I said everything was fine and they saw that I was in full riding gear. They helped me get my bike back up, made sure I was able to start it up and ride, and kept an eye out on traffic for me. Thank goodness for nice people!

I gingerly made my way back to where Matt was waiting. I told him what happened (he guessed anyway, based on how long it took for me to turn around). We decided to head back to the chalet. Enough excitement for one day. When we got back, Matt gave the bikes a thorough cleaning. We had picked up quite a bit of mud when we travelled through Arches National Park.

Our final dinner will be at the chalet. We had leftover ingredients from all the other times we ate in. So why not? Good food and good company. What a fine way to spend an evening.

Tomorrow we will be heading back to Denver to drop off our bikes with Ben. Our Colorado adventure will come to an end. How sad. =(

Day 6 Route, or at least the Arches National Park portion of it:

Day 6 Route

View along Broken Arch Trail:

View from Broken Arch Trail

Broken Arch:

Broken Arch

Delicate Arch panorama:

Delicate Arch Panorama

Delicate Arch:

Delicate Arch

Balanced Rock:

Balanced Rock


Day 5: Off to Moab!

As soon as we had decided to go on this trip, we immediately started thinking about doing an overnight trip to Moab and Arches National Park in Utah.  Given that we would be so close, we just had to do it.  Earlier this week we spent some time checking the weather forecast and decided that we would do this side trip on the Wednesday and Thursday.

We set out this morning, retracing part of our route from the Telluride ride, going west along Highway 62.  At the junction with Highway 145 we turned north (if you want to go to Telluride, you turn south).  As soon as we did so we were in for a massive surprise.  For the next 30-40 km, Highway 145 wound through mountains, canyons, and valleys.  The road was a series of continuous sweeping turns (with some technical hairpins thrown in for good measure!) with superb road conditions.  As if that wasn't enough, the road eventually reached a mountain pass where a large valley opened up below us.  We immediately stopped and admired the scenery for the next 20 minutes or so.  The dropoff from where we were down to the valley was easily 200 m or more.

The remainder of the ride to Utah continued to be fantastic.  As we got closer to Utah and eventually crossed into it, the geology of the area visibly changed.  The mountains took a seat back to canyons, mesas, and plains.  Upon arriving in Moab, it was too early to check into our hotel, so we decided to hit some local roads.

If you have a look at the map below you'll see the smaller loop that we did.  We started off following the Colorado river along Highway 128, eventually reaching Mountain Loop Rd, which we more or less followed all the way back to south of Moab.  The road conditions along Highway 128 were great, along Mountain Loop Rd, less so.  However, what was lacking in road conditions was made up by the views.  It would seem that most of the Mountain Loop Rd section we rode is not particularly well travelled.  We would often go 15-20 minutes without seeing another vehicle going in the other direction.  The further we got, the less traffic we saw.  In addition to the stunning views, we were privvy to some amusing sights.  For example, at one point we came across several cows standing by the side of the road drinking water... from a muddy puddle.  I have no clue what they were doing there as there didn't seem to be a farm anywhere nearby.  After all, at that point we were at an elevation of 8000+ feet!

The sun and heat were quite intense.  For the first time in all the years I've been riding, I found I was actually sweating while riding (as opposed to sweating in traffic, which is perfectly normal).  The loop took a couple of hours to complete at which point we checked into our hotel and got some rest before getting some dinner.

Tomorrow is an early day as we're aiming to be at Arches National Park by 7:30am!

Today's route:

Day 5 Route

Utah state line along Hwy 90:

Utah State Line

Rock formation at the Utah state line:

Rock formation

Colorado river along Hwy 128, just outside Moab:

Colorado River

View from Hwy 128 east of Moab:

Hwy 128 view

View from Mountain Loop Rd:

Mountal Loop View


Day 4: Taking it easy

We got up late today and then made breakfast for everyone:  fried eggs with toast. Matt spent the morning finishing up processing some photographs for our posts, researching a place to stay in Moab, and planning routes for today and to Moab tomorrow. In the meantime, I did some laundry, cleaned up our visors, repacked our rain gear, and readied my tailbag for grocery shopping for this evening's dinner.

By the time we left, it was already noon. Yikes! Unfortunately, the route that we wanted to take today headed right into some "active weather": we saw very dark clouds with lightning shooting out of them as we travelled along Highway 50. Bad news. We decided not to continue on the planned route. Instead, we stopped in at Black Canyon Corner and browsed their wares for a while. We turned back into Montrose and then did some grocery shopping for tonight's dinner. While we were strolling up and down the aisles, the rain came down in buckets. By the time we finished, the rain had cleared up and we were able to return to our chalet in relatively good weather (i.e. it wasn't raining).

On our way back after grocery shopping, we saw a sign on the side of the road that read: Alpacas for sale. And yes, there was a yard full of little alpacas chasing one another and generally being troublemakers. They were quite cute.

We returned to find Jackie and Bill already back from their ride and washing their bikes. Apparently they had encountered a mudslide during their ride so both of their bikes (and their gear) were mud-splattered. We quickly unloaded our bikes, ate a quick snack, and headed out again. We thought we could try to do a section of the Million Dollar Highway again before returning for dinner. That lasted about all of 5 minutes. A few minutes after we got out onto Highway 550 from our chalet, it started pouring. We found a safe spot and turned around. Oh well. Everyone had a good laugh when we reappeared at the chalet in under 10 minutes.

Tonight's dinner will be beef fajitas with corn and tomato salsa, and a roasted tomato and goat cheese salad to start. Mmm mmm good.  


Day 3: The Million Dollar Highway (yes, that's really what it's called)

Today we travelled on Highway 550, part of which is also known as "the Million Dollar Highway". Highway 550 begins in CO and ends in NM. Obviously, we didn't ride it all the way to the end. We were a little worried about the weather at first as it was rather overcast when we set out in the morning. Luckily, it did warm up over the course of the day. But then it started raining. We'll get to that part later.

We rode south through Ouray and began ascending into mountain passes. I didn't realize that we would be on the outside lane of the highway (i.e. closest to the edge of the pass) until we were already heading up. Did I mention lack of guard rails? It was all very breathtaking and all very heart stopping. Although the distance between Ouray and Silverton was 30 km, it felt exhaustingly long. The exhaustion came from the extreme amount of concentration I was exercising to pay attention to the road. I barely had any moments to be a tourist and soak in the beautiful surroundings. The road was very technical: many tight switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. Although I was terrified, it was a good kind of terrified. Matt? Well he was completely relaxed and didn't understand why I didn't want to go faster. Jackie and Bill accompanied us partway up. At our first stop on the highway to take some photographs, they decided to ride a different route for the rest of the day. We parted company and continued on.

Matt and I stopped at another scenic overlook to take more photographs. While we were there, a local who also arrived on a motorcycle chatted us up. He gave us some ideas for day trips while we were here. He highly recommended our tentative trip to see Arches. We thanked him and continued on our way. About 15 minutes later, he caught up to us on the road, passed us, and disappeared into the distance.

When we finally reached Silverton, we filled up our tanks and continued another 80 km to Durango. On the outskirts of Durango, we stopped for a quick lunch at a southern bbq establishment. Pulled pork! Yummy! After lunch, we continued through Durango towards Telluride. And now I can talk about the rain.

About an hour after leaving Durango, we noticed the skies ahead of us had dark, angry-looking clouds. We could see that they were dark, but no rain was falling at that time. We rode under the dark clouds, and nothing happened. About 20 minutes later, we noticed the road was suddenly wet and the vehicles travelling toward us still had their wipers on. Uh-oh. We rode into the suddenly torrential rain and made a quick decision to find the first safe place to stop on the side of the road and quickly put our rain gear on and rain covers on our bags. By the time we were done, the rain had moved. Ahead of us. Yes, we were going to ride right back into the rain.

Riding through rain is not something we normally chose to do, unless we're touring. At that point, we're usually on a tight schedule and have to ride regardless of the weather.  We ended up keeping our rain gear on until we returned to our chalet. We did stop briefly for another refuelling near the turn off for Telluride. At that point, the sky had cleared up and the sun was shining. Unfortunately, the skies above the direction we were headed were not so pretty. So, we rode along, in and out of rain showers.

After arriving at the chalet, getting out of our billions of layers of gear, and unloading the bikes, Matt re-lubed our chains. Every time we've gone on a multi-day ride, we've always forgotten to bring chain lube and wound up either purchasing a new bottle or borrowing from a fellow traveller. This time, we remembered the chain lube. But we forgot the little nozzle straw. Oops. Well, Matt was still able to reapply the lube. It was just far messier than normal. Next time!

We had discussed amongst ourselves the possibility of a dinner one evening at the chalet and had tentatively scheduled it for Monday. We had already eaten out for 3 nights in a row. Boy was that a wise decision. Jackie and Bill arrived about 10 minutes after we did with groceries for dinner. We were all standing around chatting about maybe going into Ouray for a brief visit when suddenly it started raining. Well that ended any possible excursion plans. Dinner at the chalet was on! Jackie made a nice green salad with homemade croutons, and pasta with a simple vegetable sauce. She even oven-roasted the tomatoes for the sauce! Jackie: thank you so much for a wonderful dinner. =)

The weather outlook for the remainder of the week looks pretty bleak. Rain, rain, and more rain. Of course, that's how the weather looked for the beginning of our trip, too! So we're not exactly sure if we should believe the weather predictions or not. We just have to take it day by day.

Day 3 route:


Million Dollar Highway:

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway:

Million Dollar Highway

Scenery viewed from Million Dollar Highway:

Million Dollar Highway view

Mountain lodge:

Mountain lodge

Red Rock Formations along US 145:

Red Rocks

Cess being silly with red rocks:

Red Rocks


Day 2: Short but #$%&! scenic

We had decided at the end of Day 1 that we were not going to do a long ride on Day 2. We were unsure what the weather would be like (when we checked the forecast it called for a fair bit of rain!) and frankly, we wanted to have an easier, more relaxing day. As it turned out, Bill and Jackie (a couple staying in the same chalet as us) had very similar goals for the day. So over breakfast, we decided we'd ride out together and do a short jaunt to the town of Telluride and back.

Telluride is a small town with a single main street. Like many towns in this area, it's done up in an old western style. It's a tad gimmicky but I guess it's in line with the rich mining history Colorado has, so it works. The ride to Telluride was short, but beautiful. We left Ouray, headed northwest to Ridgeway, then turned west along Route 62 until we reached a junction with Route 145, at which point we turned southeast until we reached Telluride. The ride was beautiful. The roads were essentially never straight, full of long sweeping corners cutting through mountain passes and valleys. When we hit Route 145 the geology of the area visibly changed as suddenly we were surrounded by nearby and more distant rock faces composed of a reddish stone.

Once we reached Telluride, we stopped for lunch before retracing our route back to our chalet. After dinner, we spent the evening on the porch of the chalet with our lodge mates chatting and doing a bit of storm watching as a thunderstorm rolled through the area.

Day 2 Route:

 Day 2 route

View of US 62:

Route 62 view

Rock formations:

Rock formations

Keystone Hill Overlook along US 145:

Keystone Hill Overlook

Whispering Pines chalet:

Whispering Pines chalet

Lightning strike:

Lightning strike


Day 1: Welcome to Ouray

MATT IS A MORON. Ahem. He said I could say that. ;) Being a creature of habit, he left home without his earplugs and without his documents (driver's license, ownership, and insurance slip). Why? Well, we were not leaving on our bikes; we were taking the TTC and then travelling by air to meet the bikes. Luckily, we had pre-arranged for some friends to water our plants while we were away. Matt sent a tearful email pleading with them to hurry along to our condo and take his documents to be scanned and emailed to us so that he could at least have a printed copy to carry with him for the duration of the trip. Thank you, Martin, for rescuing Matt in his grovelling state. =)

We chatted briefly with the tour organizer, Ben, for a few minutes before we headed out. He gave us a list of the living arrangements and the local contact person should we arrive in Ouray first. We would be staying with 3 other people in our "unit".

After breakfast, we set out from Denver for Ouray. The weather was fantastic. The ride to Ouray was mostly uneventful. We stopped at a few scenic lookout spots to take photograhs. We stopped in Clifton for lunch. When we finally rolled into Ouray, it turned out that we were not the first to have arrived. We gratefully got our key and headed to our accomodations to check it out. 

As it turns out, our "unit" is actually a sprawling three bedroom, 2 bathroom house. The kitchen is very well equiped and has a breakfast nook. There is also a large living room and a dining room. The two-car garage has ample space to park our 5 motorcycles. The outdoor space has ample seating (in the front and the open space in the rear) and comes with 2 different barbecues and a fire pit. Wow.

After settling down, we headed back to town to have dinner with the rest of the group. In total, 18 people were participating in this trip, with 15 bikes. We had a hearty dinner of elk burgers and sweet potato fries. After dinner, we took a stroll down the main street of Ouray. It's definitely a small town. We managed to purchase milk, eggs, and bread to make breakfast for ourselves for the week. Then we headed back to the house for the night.

Route for the day:

Denver to Ouray route 

View of I-70 elevated above the ground:


Cess' evil eye during a rest stop:

Cess' evil eye

Clifton - crappy town with a great backdrop:

Clifton view


Day 0: Flying Away

When I started researching flights for this trip, I knew I wanted to fly the first leg with Porter. Why not? We can walk to the Island Airport, how snazzy is that! It turned out the best priced option was flying into Chicago-Midway and then onto Colorado with Frontier Airlines. Although we were all stoked to walk to the airport, we ended up taking public transit because we were running late. We made use of the complimentary beverages and wifi before boarding our flight. Our seats were in the first row of the plane. Talk about ridiculous leg room!

The flight itself was uneventful. We landed in Chicago-Midway and were the first passengers off the plane. We had to exit the arrivals area and then make our way to the ticketing area to get our boarding passes for the connecting flight and then pass through the security check again. Luckily we had 2 hours to get this all done. After all the necessary evils were out of the way, we got ourselves something to eat while we waited for our next flight. 

As it turned out, our seats on the Frontier flight were also in the first row. Pretty funny. =) The best part of the Frontier flight? A warm chocolate chip cookie for a snack. Ahhh. We arrived in Denver and then called our hotel for a shuttle. After about 15 minutes, we were aboard the shuttle vehicle and on our way to the hotel. Our hotel room was a bit of a surprise. I only expected a room with a king bed. What we got was a suite with a kitchenette and livingroom area, and a separate bedroom and bathroom area. Wow. Talk about luxury!

Now we need to work on getting our bikes from the transport truck that should be parked across the street at another hotel. Hmm ...