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[Part 1 of 2: Posting in two parts, because I exceeded the length]

I just got from a great 5-day trip to Colorado and back. On this trip, it was just me and my buddy - a couple of flatlanders from Minnesota venturing into the real mountains.

This note is a summary of our trip. (It’s mostly for me to journal the experience for myself. It gets a little long winded. I apologize in advance)

Day 1: Minneapolis to Colorado (approx 900 miles)
  • We rode cross country from Minneapolis to Colorado over-nighting in Loveland, CO. Loveland is at the foot of the mountains, on the route into Rocky Mountain National Park.

Day 2: Loveland to Leadville (approx 270 miles)
  • This day started with a run through Rocky Mountain National Park and ended with a wet ride to a hotel in Leadville
  • From Loveland to Estes Park – Route 34 is a fun road through a canyon with good twisties and rock walls.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – The road through the park is the highest through paved road in the US (maybe all of North America?). The road includes twisty switchbacks up and down the mountains. The westbound switchback up the mountain includes long climbs, hairpin turns, and sharp drop offs. There are great twisties and big sweepers along the windblown, treeless mountain top. The ride down the mountain is forested with steep descents and tight hairpins. The entire road is in great condition and can be ridden aggressively, just not so aggressive that you run off a cliff.
  • Grand Lake – We stopped in Grand Lake for breakfast at Fat Cat Café. They had great pancakes. Grand Lake is a nice little town of shops and restaurants. It’s worth a stop if you are looking for souvenirs or a meal.
  • Grand Lake to Idaho Springs – We ran route 40 south from Grand Lake through Winter Park down to I-70 and east to Idaho Springs. Route 40 is a nice road. There are several small towns. The road includes open valleys and sweepers before Winter Park and a switch-backed descent south of Winter Park.
  • Mount Evans – BOY, Oh BOY! Whew! Mount Evans became a turning point on the trip. For anyone who has not been, Mount Evans is a 14,000+ peak on the outskirts of Denver. There is a paved road all the way to the top. I knew it was 14,000 feet. I also knew it was paved. That’s all that I knew when we set off. So far today we had been dry. Approaching the base of the mountain we could see clouds moving in. It looked wet, but not heavy. There is a fee station at the base of the Mount Evans road. The attendant told us there is a light rain coming down, and there is serious road damage at mile marker 9. With that information, we stopped to layer-on our rain gear. This was a wise, informed decision. Carrying on up the mountain was not. The ride up started fine with a good road, reasonable climbs, and mild curves. It started to drizzle about halfway up the mountain. About the same time, the road narrowed and became bumpier with more austere corners and great vistas that came with stark drop-offs. We got to mile marker 9 and experienced the road damage. There was also a rest area at mile 9The rain had picked up to a steady shower. The rain wouldn’t have been severe on flat ground, but it was making the ride up the mountain “interesting”. We stopped at the rest area to talk about the road and our plan. I am a moderate rider. My buddy is relatively new (this is his third season) to riding, and this trip was his first experience riding in the mountains. The road was challenging for both of us. I had some anxiety. My friend had more. After considering the options, we decided to press on. We should not have. Just beyond the rest area, the road steepened, narrowed further with sure-death drop-offs over the edge of the road, and became a continuous sequence of 10mph steep switchbacks. On a sunny day, this would be a anxiety filled road. In the rain, it was extreme. I was concerned about losing traction and/or momentum around every corner. At about mile marker 12, we pulled into a turn-out at the edge of one of the hairpin corners. My friend was done with his attempt to summit Mount Evans. The road and the conditions were just too much. We agreed he would wait there, or if the weather broke he would go back down to the rest area at mile 9. I (foolishly) continued to the top. There were only 2 more miles to go. How much worse could it be? And I had already almost made it to the top. Well, as I left the turn out and proceeded upwards, it did worsen. The clouds that had been dropping rain on us now moved onto the mountain. The next two miles were a nerve wracking crawl through limited visibility wet roads and switchback corners. I shouldn’t have been on that road. But once in that situation, I thought it may be equally dangerous to try to pull off or stop on the road with other drivers (in cars) navigating through the same conditions coming down the road ahead of me and up the road behind me. I did finally make it to the summit (thankfully). While I was there the rain and clouds broke (amazingly). I snapped a few pictures, breathed the thin air, and got back on the bike to take advantage of the weather break. I found my buddy at the rest area. He had made it down the mountain to mile 9 during the weather break too. We took a breather at the rest area and then proceeded slowly down the rest of the mountain without incident.
  • Mount Evans turned out to be a challenging experience. Had I known the true conditions, it is a road I would have skipped. Without knowing what we were getting into, we thankfully got through it safely. It could have been much worse. I would go back up Mount Evans again, but only if I was confident I had 3-4 hours of good weather to get up and back without incident. Even in good weather, Mount Evans is not for the faint of heart. Do not try it on a motorcycle in less than optimal conditions.
  • To Leadville – Once we were down from Mount Evans, we continued on to Leadville with an excursion on route 6 through Keystone to get off the interstate. Route 6 was fun, and the rest of the ride for the day was uneventful. We chose to stay in Leadville, because it seemed to be a reasonable stopping point for the day as we were planning the route from home. Leadville, it turns out, is not great place. The hotel was decent, but we both had an “unwelcome” vibe from the locals, although we had no incident and moved on in the morning.
 

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Yes what a trip. You go straight into the HAT club. I am still trying to catch up with you, I can't even see your dust. Thanks for tour report, I will go through it more carefully later. Eric
 

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Thanks for the review, Now if you had just had a SPOT we could have rode with you. I have been over the road from Twin Lakes to Aspen via Independence Pass and although you thought it was interesting, I found it terrifying to say the least. But glad you had a good time and you were right about Leadville. Its not the most hospitable place around. Thanks...
 

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I love Colorado--can't wait to ride there again. Thanks for the report--looking forward to more pictures.
 

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Excellent report & ride. Glad all went well.
 

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great ride report. now that you two are back home how does your budd feel about the trip
 

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Great read and a fun trip. Me plenty jealous now!
 
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