Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Colorado - Intro

A Tour of Colorado's Mountains to Utah's Canyons on Video


Colorado. Just saying its name conjures up images of the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains. Images of outdoor activities, such as hiking, white-water rafting and skiing are quickly painted in your mind, along with the smell of fresh air and crystal clear water. Plus, for motorcyclists, it also means tones and tones of twisting tarmac up and over numerous mountain passes. Colorado is touted as the ultimate sport-tourer's paradise as besides having endless twisties, it also has amazing scenery around every corner.

Having ridden the northern Rockies the summer before, it left us salivating for what the southern Rockies held for us. Last year, we thoroughly enjoyed riding through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. And this year, we planned our route through Colorado's mountain passes, Arizona's Grand Canyon and southern Utah's National Parks. All though we could spend a whole week in Colorado itself, we figured we might as well see what Arizona and Utah have to offer, since it's all quite far from Chicago.

Southern Utah in itself was a big attraction to us as the few state roads through that part of that state were mapped as endless twisties. Plus, the scenery of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks were another attraction. And how could we not dip down to Arizona and visit the majestic Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, which I've been yearning to see since I've come to this country.

With the destinations decided, the route took shape covering 4800 miles in 10 days. The riders would be Andy (BMW K1200S), Rick (Ducati ST3), Steven (Kawasaki ZR1200), Aileen (Suzuki GSX-R750) and me on the Suzuki GSX-R600. This would be Aileen's first big sport-touring trip and we all had confidence in her after watching her rapid progress over the past year, having taken the MSF course only last spring.

Andy and I wanted to do some moto-camping on this trip, as it adds another dimension; another way to experience the places we'd be staying at. And we'd have some beautiful camp sites to choose from on this trip: the Grand Canyon, the National Parks in Utah and even the wilds of Colorado. Four camping nights were chosen along with nearby motels incase the weather wasn't cooperating.

We planned the trip over the July 4th weekend as it allows for a longer trip with fewer days off taken from work. Also, we had to make sure to plan our trip such that all the mountain passes through Colorado would be open. Most open after Memorial Day, but some can be closed even in June by freak snow storms. Going in July through Utah and Arizona's low lying regions would certainly mean temperatures in the 100s. But this would be a dry heat and our cooling vests proved adequate in similar temperatures on our trip last summer, so no one was worried. To counter the heat, we'd also be spending extended periods of time at cooler high altitudes through Colorado, from 8,000 ft to 12,000 ft. Regarding the high altitude, altitude sickness is a real concern and besides being properly hydrated before starting the trip, there's not much else one can do to fight it.

Lots of video was shot throughout the trip as it's a much better medium than pictures to capture what it felt like to be there and ride those roads. Just to note that most of the clips below show some good action but not all of them are us railing through twisties. Some clips were used to portray what the road and surrounding area looked like. All the videos can be viewed separately on this YouTube playlist.

There is also an interactive version of this ride report based on Google's new personalized maps. Click on the map below to watch videos and see pictures from the trip as they're marked along the route that we took.

Interactive Google Route Map with Videos and Pictures from the trip. Click the image to experience it.

Overall route map. 4800 miles over 10 days. The route was planned with us entering the Colorado Rockies south of Denver, riding through south-western Colorado, heading over to the Grand Canyon, up into Utah's national parks, and then heading back into Colorado, exiting the Rockies in Fort Collins.

Below is an index of the daily entries for this trip:

Day 1 & 2, Chicago to Great Bend, KS
Day 3, Monarch, CO
Day 4, Million Dollar Highway & Ouray, CO
Day 5, Monument Valley & Grand Canyon North Rim
Day 6, Zion & Bryce Natl Park
Day 7, Capitol Reef & Arches Natl Park
Day 8, Independence Pass to Leadville, CO
Day 9, Exiting Colorado
Day 10 & Epilogue, Heading Home

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