Friday, July 06, 2007

Colorado - Day 9

Day 9
Friday, July 6, 2007
Start: Leadville, CO, 8:00 am
End: Lexington, NE, 10:00 pm
Mileage: 626

The route for Day 9: Leadville, CO to Lexington, NE. The last day of twisties before hitting the slab for home.

Today would be the last day of twisties with the Rocky Mountains spitting us out onto the freeway in Fort Collins. The highlights would be the Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland Pass and then some unexpected joy towards the end. We met up with Jim Williamson from the Sport-Touring.Net motorcycle forum, who lives in Fort Collins and offered to show us a few good roads in the area.

As always, in the morning, the storm clears. Looking back at where we rode through from our Super 8 in Leadville, CO, the highest town in the US at 10,152 ft. (Picture by Andy)

Heading to Dillon on CO-91

Twisties in the fresh mountain morning air… just what the doctored ordered.

Andy on CO-91.

After meeting up with Jim in Dillon, we rode up I-70 to ride through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is an engineering marvel being the highest vehicular tunnel in the world at 11,158 ft and it's about 1.7 miles long. We exited right after the tunnel and made the loop back to Dillon on Loveland Pass, which was the old way around these parts before the tunnel. HazMat Cargo still has to take Loveland Pass up and over as they are banned from traveling through the tunnel due to potential safety hazards and not having escape tunnels for traffic. There was considerable construction on both sides of the pass, but the other parts were still fun to ride and the scenery on the western side is quite picturesque. This is when we noticed Jim's unique way of riding his Honda Magna with his legs straight out on the highway pegs. He railed like this through the corners, which was great to see.

One of the few traffic lights on the Interstate system on I-70 at the west entrance to the Eisenhower Tunnel. It's probably used to direct traffic during weather hazards or other tunnel incidents.

Entering the eastbound Johnson Tunnel.

The Eisenhower Tunnel system is the highest vehicular tunnel in the world at 11,158 ft and it's about 1.7 miles long.

Looking back at the group.

Looking down from Loveland Pass Road at the east entrance of the tunnel. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

After riding the tunnel east, we took the old Loveland Pass Road to make a loop back into Dillon. Trucks and other haz-mat vehicles are banned from the tunnel and must make the twisty journey up and over the pass. There was lots of construction on both sides of the pass.

24 Loveland Pass, US-6 [4:54]
Riding up and over Loveland Pass, US-6 around the Eisenhower Tunnel. There's some construction on both sides of the pass, but good riding still / Andy
Musik: Barenaked Ladies - If I Had A Million Dollars
My Rating > Road: 5/5, Scenery: 5/5

Loveland Pass Road (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Construction on one of the hairpins (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Riding some awesome corners on the way up to the summit. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

The Loveland Pass summit at 11,990 ft.

Aileen, heading west, down the mountain. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Construction on Loveland Pass Road, western side.

Construction on Loveland Pass Rd, western side. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

No guard rails even in the sharpest of corners…

With stunning scenery like this, extreme concetration was required to focus on riding the road (besides taking this picture while riding, of course).

Loveland Pass Road (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Looking back and taking a picture of… (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Jim, who joined us from the Sport-Touring.Net forum, riding an '84 Honda Magna V-65. The craziest thing was his riding style, with his legs straight on his pegs through all the twisties. And man, could he ride!

Heading back into town with the Dillon Reservoir in the background.

From there we headed north around the Rocky Mountain National Park, as there was scheduled heavy construction through the park's roads. Heading to Kremmling on CO-9 was kind of boring with nothing much to see or ride. This whole area is located in a huge basin called North Park and nearby is, you guessed it, South Park, where the cartoon show gets its name. After the decent US-40, CO-125 turned out to be another real gem. This road has almost no traffic, terrific sweepers and lots of 35 mph marked corners. The road surface wasn't the best, but we'll take it. The close proximity of the trees added a bit to the sensation of speed.

Heading north on CO-9 into Kremmling along the Green Mountain Reservoir.

Besides that bit, CO-9 was quite boring. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Railing on CO-125, an awesome stretch of twisty pavement, heading into Walden, CO.

25 CO-125 [5:22]
Riding the nice and rhythmic CO-125 north towards Walden, CO. The road surface wasn't perfect but the curves were very nice / Solo
Musik: Sunfreakz - Riding The Waves
My Rating > Road: 5/5, Scenery: 3/5

Yes, there were tar snakes abound, but they didn't bother too much. The riding was good.

Andy and I on CO-125. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

CO-125 straightens out after coming down from Willow Creek Pass. This whole geographical area is actually called North Park. And on the other side is, you guessed it, South Park, where the show gets its name from.

Taking a break in Walden, CO. (Picture by Andy)

After gassing up in Walden, we took the crowded, scenic CO-14 towards Fort Collins. I was leading Andy and we weren't really riding all that fast when I got a radar blip around a corner and for a second was debating whether this was an erroneous detection or the real thing. Coming around the corner, we saw officer friendly with somebody already pulled over and pointing us to pull over behind him. We gladly obliged and waited patiently. The rest of the group rode by, once again pretending like they didn't know us. The officer was in an ok mood and said he got us doing 57 in a 45. Phew, that's not bad. After hearing that we were touring from Chicago, he didn't even check our licenses and just gave us a verbal warning to slow down and stop scaring any of the locals. He said this road sees lot of sportbike traffic from Fort Collins and looked like enforcement was being stepped up to protect the cagers going camping and fishing in the area. We caught up with the rest of the group and they couldn't believe that all we got was just warnings. Lady luck rides pillion.

CO-14 was getting even more exciting to ride as it entered a canyon system, but it was plagued with traffic. To rescue us, Jim took us on an amazing short-cut into Fort Collins on Stove Prairie Road. This was one of the highlights of the trip with this road rivaling Deals Gap. Check out the video and see the constant direction change and with smooth corners marked at 15 to 20 mph. These are not the same as 20 mph corners marked in Wisconsin, which are basically 90 degree turns. There were designed much better and were proper chicanes. Trying to keep up with Jim, who probably has this road memorized, was quite a task. The road surface was also very smooth but there were some big gravel spots, but not too much. Aileen dropped her bike just as we turned on to Stove Prairie as there was considerable gravel on the tight right turn. No biggie, she didn't even go down with the bike and was raring to get going right away. Jim promised that there'd be no more gravel and to our amusement, just a few hundred feet into the road we came across big patches of gravel. There were definitely some pucker moments with the road changing direction quite fast over some crests and decreasing radius turns that tightened up more than expected. I had tremendous fun on this road and am jealous of the motorcyclists living in Fort Collins, who have so much access to this fun ride.

Heading towards Cameron Pass on CO-14, our last mountain pass on this trip before hitting the slab for home.

Andy riding Cameron Pass on CO-14.

Aileen riding Cameron Pass on CO-14. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

26 CO-14, Cameron Pass [4:09]
Riding our last mountain pass on CO 14's Cameron Pass / Andy
Musik: Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill
My Rating > Road: 4/5, Scenery: 4/5

Andy on CO-14.

CO-14 (Picture by Jim Williamson)

CO-14 (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Aileen on CO-14.

Rick, Steven and Aileen on CO-14. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

Andy on CO-14 with Jim in the lead, taking us to Stove Prairie Road.

27 Stove Prairie Road [5:32]
Railing on the awesome Stove Prairie Road just outside of Fort Collins, CO. Looks like the road engineers didn't have a straight ruler with them - thank goodness! / Steven, Jim Williamson
Musik: Hed Kandi (Hott 22) - Make Up Your Mind
My Rating > Road: 5/5, Scenery: 3/5

We entered Fort Collins and headed for a late lunch at Aileen's brother's house. After a good break, we hit the slab for home. Aileen and Steven were feeling quite guilty as they had left their children and family for over 9 days now and were eager to get back home. So, we stepped up the mileage and instead of doing an easy 140 miles of slab with two more days of interstate riding, we decided to do about 320 today and finish the remaining 700 or so the next day.

Leaving Aileen's brother's house in Fort Collins, after a nice lunch and rest. (Picture by Jim Williamson)

It's always a bit dreary to ride I-80 through Nebraska as there's no decent scenery to look at or any interesting cities along the way, unlike North or South Dakota (just marginally, though). We joked that Nebraska's main purpose was probably just to support everybody that was crossing the state on I-80. There's nothing really to stop and check out in the state besides the towns of Omaha and Lincoln. The western part of the state also had a strong manure smell in the air. One of the joys and probably downfalls of riding a motorcycle is getting to experience the local surroundings, including the smells, good and bad.

Oh yeah, baby - Nebraska, the good life… slabbing it home. (Picture by Andy)

Next: Day 10 & Epilogue, Heading Home

Ride Report Index

No comments: