...why I feel sorry for people who don't live here. I mean, look at this!
|I took so few pictures. I know you think I'm going to say, But I took this one! I didn't. Photo--M. Landon|
So, we started off from Red Rocks Diner in two groups that day. Our group of 5 slabbed it north and west about 40 miles to the spot where we would be meeting the 11 other bikes (led by Rick and Pat--one had the map, the other had the glasses with which to read it. This is how we do it, folks!) who chose to do the ~25 miles of dirt. We gave them a head start as it would take them longer, and rode mostly pavement to our meeting spot. Our group was led by Mark and included Matt, John, and Francis. Francis was the only one I didn't know, but we would have plenty of time to become acquainted....
Matt and I paired our Senas (buying a com system? Get a Sena. All the cool kids have them and they are the best) and chatted a bit as we rode past Grand Mesa and beautiful stands of Aspens. Matt, being a geographer told me all the geographical highlights of the area. You know, things like, "26,000,000 years ago, The Great Upheaval..." and I contributed to the conversation by telling him of "the great upheaval" that was happening in the ladies room of the restaurant when I had gone back in. I like being able to hold my own in conversations with educated, intelligent people.
Our group stopped off the road at the meeting place and relaxed a bit, waiting for the second group. After being there for ten minutes or so, Mark pulled out the map and we all looked over where our friends would be coming from, Mark pointing to road numbers and asking me what they said. (He had forgotten his glasses too...) Eventually, we realized there were two possible places the other group could come out of the hills--where we were waiting, and another spot about two miles back. We waited another 15 minutes, stopping people who drove by and asking them if they had seen a big group of motorbikers waiting back at the other road.
|Our small group, waiting for the others--Matt and Mark consult maps....|
Forty-five minutes in, and we hadn't seen them. We started to get a little worried, and Mark retold the story of the rider in that group from the previous year who had ridden that route, and broken his handlebars. Yikes! Matt said he'd ride back to the other spot and check for the group.
John and Mark sat on rocks, I sat on the ground. Francis pulled his tent out to dry out from the previous night. And we waited.
Matt returned after about 15 minutes and said he'd seen no sign, but thought he'd come back to where we were to see if they had come out our way. When we said no, he headed back.
Francis went and sat in the sliver of shade next to a sign. Mark went to consult his maps. I moved to his rock. And we waited.
I moved to the shade.
Matt returned again, and we all worried. Just a little. They are all fully capable riders, but you never know when something might happen. We knew that if something did, there were plenty of them to work through any problems. Mark decided he would ride out the road to see if he could find them and John said he'd ride along. No sense in sending a single rider.
Francis and I stayed sitting in the shade, leaning against the sign, and Matt lay down with his head in the shade. And we waited.
Suddenly, we heard them coming. And it was all of them--some completely painted in mud! Somehow, Pat and her F800GS were nearly spotless. They had a great story to tell of a large mud hole across the road, followed by another 30 feet of slippy, snotty, muddy road. Six out of the eleven made it through the mud hole. The larger bikes needed a hand to get them through and there were fantastic pictures of four people pushing one bike as it rooster-tailed mud into the sky. Besides being a phenomenal rider and making it through the mud hole, Pat had then found a water crossing and ridden back and forth through it enough times to clean herself and her bike! Brilliant!
The exhausted group were looking for a bit of a break, but in the hour and a half we had been waiting, we watched storm clouds gather over the area we would soon be riding, and Mark said we needed to move. For the first ten miles or so, which after a short pass of hairpins was flat and a not super interesting, I began to think I wasn't going to enjoy the day. It was a bit of a let down, and all I was doing was sucking down the dust of the riders around me. For the first time, I thought I might not like this whole group riding thing.
We were riding fast and kicking up a lot of dust. I dropped back a bit for a while to avoid some of it, and when I decided I was far enough back, I got on the gas again and cruised. I was moving fast enough that as I came around a curve I had to get on the brakes pretty good to avoid blowing by the turnoff where the riders in front of me had stopped. As I pulled up, there was much laughing. I wasn't the only one who had done that. Whoever was riding behind me was also laughing, telling me he would have missed it if I hadn't been in front of him. We sat and watched others do the same thing I did, and one person who realized too late and blew right by!
This was the start of McClure Pass, and our real viewing of GORGEOUS trees. We all took off as one group, but eventually as some people stopped for photos in different places, we broke into smaller groups. The last 15 or so miles of the pass, Matt, Rick, and I all stayed together. I led which was awesome because I wasn't riding in someone else's dust clouds.... We pulled up just outside of Paonia, to join a group of six. We had snacks, the boys had personal moments in nature, and we waited for the others, taking pictures of each other's filthy faces. Even wearing a full face helmet I managed to look like I had nothing blocking the dust. A shower was going to feel so good!
|John! You're so dirty!! Oh wait, so was I....|
We slabbed it the next few miles to Kebler Pass. It was a dirt pass which was so well traveled and had so much mag-chloride deposited on it that it almost felt like pavement. It was packed with traffic--people from all over the state, no doubt, who had come to look at the trees. The aspens in this area were very tall and colorful. Stunningly beautiful! People were everywhere on the pass, cameras out, smiling and enjoying. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was gorgeous. How had I waited so long to go leaf-peeping??
|Hello! Beautiful! Photo--M. Landon|
At the end of Kebler, we met up again and dubiously watched as storm clouds moved over our dirt road route. We would have another two hours of riding, most likely in mud, if we headed that way, and the decision was made to slab it. We had lost John somewhere near the top of Kebler, having some sort of fuel problem with his KTM, and a couple of guys said they'd wait for him and join back up with us at camp. The rest of us pulled out and headed for Crested Butte and on to Gunnison.
|At the east (?) end of Kebler Pass. I really need to look at a map....|
Somewhere just outside of Crested Butte, after we all decided we were fine on gas and would make it easily to Gunnison, my low fuel light came on. Oh shit. I had no idea why my gas mileage was so low, and I had no idea how far it was to Gunnison. I held my breath the next 30 miles, not wanting to be THAT girl, the one who ran out of gas, and breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled into the gas station. As it turns out, of course I had somewhat lower gas mileage, which I had expected, but my low fuel light also came on early. Real nice, BMW--way to scare a girl.
We rode east another 20 miles to the Tomichi Trading Post where we would camp for the night, and by the time we were done checking in, the other group of riders, including Matt who we had lost somewhere between Created Butte and Gunnison, all pulled up.
I had planned to camp that night, but then I discovered there was a teepee available! And it had a fire pit inside! For $30! After I went back to the cashier to change my spot for the night, I hit the shower. Oh god, it felt so good. I was so dirty. I had failed to pack shampoo, but the trading post conveniently sold some really nice, local beeswax products and I bought a small bar of lemongrass shampoo and a peppermint lotion bar.
|Tomichi Trading Post teepee! They have propane fire pits inside!|
When I left the shower and headed to the restaurant, everyone was there, in some state of being served dinner. The trading post had told Mark, when he let them know we would be coming, they would stay open for dinner for us. And though they don't usually serve breakfast, they told us that night they would do breakfast burritos for us the next morning if we wanted. Everyone was super hospitable, drinks showed up quickly followed by good food.
Our table of eight or nine people played the question and answer game of "How many years have you been riding?" and "What was your first motorbike?" and then moved on to talk of mining and fracking. One of the things I really liked about this group is that although there were differing opinions on these polarizing subjects, everyone was respectful of each person who had something to say. I enjoyed being able to sit back and listen to the conversation without being worried that someone might throw something. The respect that people have for others as riders seems to add up, often, to respect for that person as a whole. I totally dig that about this community.
Eventually, people slowly peeled off to head to cabins and teepees. As Pat got up to leave, she looked at me and asked how I had gotten so sunburned. I smiled and quietly said, "Waiting an hour and a half this morning...."
She laughed and headed for bed.