04 December 2012

Off-Road Love

I mentioned in my last post that I'm addicted to dirt roads and trails now. As of last May, I had ridden two dirt roads, neither of which were longer than nine miles. Our first day on the road to Alaska put us on more than 30 miles of dirt and gravel road. We also rode the Top of the World Highway from Dawson City, YT, CA to Chicken, AK and the Dalton Highway which was miles and miles of dirt and gravel. The Dalton is an up-and-back road, and on the way south, there was a lot of rain and a lot of mud.

At the end of The Dalton Highway, after a day of rain and mud. It took two hours to get that bike even resembling clean.
A couple of weeks after returning from Alaska, Ian, Josh and I headed out for the day. We attempted to ride to the top of Mt. Evans that day but there was a huge bicycle tour happening, and we couldn't do it. So, we rode over Guanella Pass then back north on 285 to Bailey. At Bailey we turned off and headed to Lake Wellington. A couple miles in on that road, it turns to dirt. Unbeknownst to me, the guys headed for a spot near the lake where they knew there was a water crossing.

This was a first for me, and after watching Josh plow through, Ian sure was surprised to nearly run me over as I pulled up and stopped before heading in. He asked if I wanted him to go first and I said sure. I followed and once we got around a bend, they stopped and said we had to turn around and go back through because that was the only way out. They went that way just to put me through a water crossing. Awwww...if that's not love, I just don't know what is. Ian and I went through side by side the next time, and he wound up with a face full of muddy water after forgetting to put his visor down. That'll teach ya!

This may be my favorite thing to do!
A few weeks later, I headed south to Silverton, CO and joined a group of two hundred or so people for the Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders 2012 Rendezvous. I couldn't find anyone to go with me, so I loaded my camping gear and set off. The description of the event said rides for every riding level; mountain passes via pavement, dirt and trails. I thought it might be nice to do a little more dirt road riding, and this sounded promising.

Getting ready for the first day of riding--those low clouds cleared for a beautiful day. Silverton, CO.
The campground which served as base camp for the Rendezvous. I didn't camp here, though. I had a better spot scoped out.
I had no idea what I was getting into.

The first day's ride I joined was called the Big Bike Easy Ride. That sounded right--I had a big bike and I wanted easy. We rode nine and a half hours that day over terrain I had never seen. Down in the southwest corner of the state are the beautiful San Juan Mountains. It used to be a huge mining area, and there are tons of jeep trails and single track in an amazing, beautiful setting. I dropped my bike a couple times that day, but so did more than half of our group of sixteen riders. Each rider helped every other rider when they needed it, and though it was tough it was a lot of fun. That was it, I was hooked. That day we started with Corkscrew Gulch, Hurricane Pass, California Gulch and Cinnamon Pass. After lunch in Lake City, we rode the Blue Mesa Cutoff and some forest service roads that got us to Owl Creek Pass and 35 miles of asphalt back to Silverton.

Our group as we started out that first day. We finished with all riders!
They are staring off at a little road they headed for. I watched some other riders go up there and thought, "Oh hell no!"
At Animas Forks with Steve and Kimberly. For those who can't remember properly, I did NOT drop my bike here!

Part of Cinnamon Pass. My friend Ian was standing here when I rode down, and I remember being so happy someone I knew saw me ride any portion of that!
Charlie, me, and Dan on the shelf road. This was the easy part of the ride, and what I had thought the ride would be like!
Owl Creek Pass--the last pass of the day. I was pretty freakin' tired by this point.


At the top of Cinnamon Pass. That's Terry doing the rabbit ears--dude, you're so classy! Miss you!
The next day, I joined a smaller group of about eleven riders. We rode some asphalt and the Last Dollar Highway into Telluride. Out of Telluride we rode Ophir Pass back to Silverton. I did great until I got bounced around a bit, about a quarter of the way up Ophir, and I rode my bike right into the mountain. (This was better than the alternative which was straight over a huge drop off!) This is about the time that it occurred to me that knobby tires would have been a better choice than 90/10 street tires with 10,000 miles on. I did finish the ride though, with only six others. We lost four along the way.

Joel on Last Dollar Highway. .
Most of the way up Ophir Pass. I was happy to get that far--see the smile!
At the top of Ophir Pass. Heading down the backside towards Silverton was a piece of cake compared to going up the other side!
I got to meet some really great people that weekend, camped in a gorgeous and free spot, and had great food and beer. Silverton was a cute little town, and though I didn't try the brewery, on a recommendation I did try the rum distillery. Yum!

John, Al, and Jack--my new friends from Chicago and New York.
THIS is where I camped. It was gorgeous, and I'll be heading back here for next year's rendezvous. Check out that full moon!

I camped at the top of Cinnamon Pass for a week after the Rendezvous, restoring an historic cabin. This is Sudsy. He kept getting into our dish washing bucket and would dog-paddle until we rescued him.

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