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34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada
34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada
13,000 Miles Beyond Incredible
Published by Helmetdance
07-20-2006
Contents
Page 5


Day 2 – Sunday July 31st
Fort Collins, Colorado to Leadville, Colorado

Sunday morning, up at 5:30am after less than four hours of sleep. Fast asleep, Seth never hears me getting up or moving around in the room. I leave the hotel an hour earlier than Seth to attend 7:00am Mass in Loveland, about 25 miles south. The early morning sun illuminates my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. Beautiful snow-capped peaks against a beautiful clear blue sky fill me with excitement about the upcoming day’s ride.

By 8:00am we’re back on schedule, meeting up with Randy according to plan. Randy is a Colorado native who knows the area like the back of his hand, and he accompanies us through Big Thompson Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Seth, Randy, and Mark in Loveland, Colorado



Three Wings



Heading into Big Thompson Canyon with Randy and Seth on Highway 34 West, Big Thompson Road



Looking west into Big Thompson Canyon, you can't miss the large pipe spanning the highway, the Big Thompson Siphon. The siphon is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, the largest mountain water diversion project in Colorado. One of the largest water diversion projects of its kind, it is second only to California's Central Valley Project in acres irrigated.

Big Thompson Siphon



Rocky Mountain National Park must be one of the most beautiful places the United States has to offer. Our first glimpse of some of the tallest peaks of the Continental Divide leaves no doubt that one has left the Great Plains behind and reached the illustrious “West”.

Entering Rocky Mountain National Park at the Fall River Entrance Station



Seth the Hawkeye!



Randy



A natural mineral lick near Sheep Lake lures bighorn sheep to Horseshoe Park. Although we keep our eyes peeled, we unfortunately don’t see any Bighorn. Home to many different species of wildlife, black bears, moose, elk, deer, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, and muskrats frequent the wet meadows around Horseshoe Park.

Horseshoe Park



Magnificent Trail Ridge Road is the main corridor through the park. Trail Ridge Road climbs approximately 4,000 feet between the park entrance and the summit of Milner Pass. As we ascend into the higher elevations, forests of aspen and ponderosa pine yield to thick sub-alpine forests of fir and spruce. At treeline, the few remaining weather-beaten trees yield to the alpine tundra, a windswept and harsh environment, yet full of vivid color.

Trail Ridge Road



Trail Ridge Road is an unforgettable adventure and a breathtaking ride. The camera lens can not fully capture the grandeur of the vistas in Rocky Mountain National Park.

A windswept alpine world



At the summit of Milner Pass, the park visitor center provides many different observation points of the park’s vast expanses. A short hike to the lookout point affords yet another breathtaking view from an even higher elevation. Seth takes a few minutes to wipe down his bike as Randy enjoys looking at some other motorcycles in the parking area, and I take the opportunity to set up the video cam on the Wing’s front engine guard.

Magnificent views from Trail Ridge Road



Trail Ridge Road provides spectacular views of the majestic scenery of Rocky Mountain National Park. The highest continuous motorway in the United States, more than eight miles are above 11,000 feet. The highest point on the road is at 12,183 feet, well above the treeline and into the alpine tundra. The ascent is equivalent to driving hundreds of miles north into the arctic regions of Canada. Trail Ridge Road is a high-quality road, paved for its entire length.

Spectacular high-mountain terrain



Glacier-carved peaks on every side



Hundreds of square miles of Rocky Mountain highs



Rugged mountains carve out the skyline



We’re hungry and eager for breakfast, so we pass by a few scenic spots without stopping for photos and head straight for the Grand Lake Lodge. The breakfast buffet has everything from scrambled eggs and sausage to crepe suzettes, even shrimp and prime rib for those who prefer a heartier breakfast!

View from our breakfast table at the Grand Lake Lodge



We have no trouble packing away our fair share, but after our short sleep the night before, the huge breakfast hits Seth like a sleeping pill. While Seth takes a nap, Randy and I back-track for a few more shots with the camera.

West of Milner Pass, the road descends and follows the headwaters of the Colorado River to the park's Grand Lake Entrance. A moose feasts on greenery near the upper reaches of the Colorado River, which flows through the scenic Kawuneeche Valley.

Rocky calling Bullwinkle, is that you?



At an elevation of 10,120 feet, Milner Pass marks the crossing of the Continental Divide, where streamflows are separated east from west.

Milner Pass



Snow-Mantled Peaks



Mountain man Rufus Sage wrote an 1843 account of "beautiful lateral valleys, intersected by meandering watercourses, ridged by lofty ledges of precipitous rock, and hemmed in upon the west by vast piles of mountains climbing beyond the clouds".

“Beautiful lateral valleys, intersected by meandering watercourses” – Rufus Sage



Dramatic peaks tower above the spruce forests



A Clark's Nutcracker – one of many abundant species in Rocky Mountain National Park



Randy and I head back to Grand Lake Lodge to pick up Seth. After saying goodbye, Randy parts company and heads back home. Seth and I continue west on Highway 34 to Granby, Colorado where we head south on Highway 9.

Heading South on Colorado Highway 9



Seth and the Silver Bullet



On Highway 40, near Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado



A freight train passes through the canyon on Highway 40 near Hot Sulphur Springs



Once we reach Interstate 70, Seth decides to take the shortest route to Leadville, our destination for the evening. I still feel like exploring, so I take a chance with the threatening skies and continue south on Highway 9 toward Fairplay.

Between the towns of Breckenridge and Fairplay, Highway 9 crosses the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass. Hoosier Pass is located at the northern end of the Mosquito Range, in a gap between Mount Democrat to the west and Hoosier Ridge to the east, on the boundary between Park and Summit counties. The pass provides a route between the headwaters of the Blue River to the north and the headwaters of the South Platte River to the south. I stop here for a photo, inspired as much by the name as by the beauty.

Hoosier Pass



What it's all about



In Fairplay, I head south on Highway 285. The skies get pretty dark for a stretch through here, but except for a couple miles of light mist, I stay clear of any rain. Near the town of Antero Junction, Highway 285 becomes Highway 24. A few miles further south, Highway 24 crosses from Park County into Chaffee County via Trout Creek Pass, a county line defined by the Continental Divide. Trout Creek Pass reaches an elevation of 9,346 feet, and is located on a geological fault that runs along the Mosquito Range. At this point the Continental Divide separates the watersheds of the Arkansas River Valley towards Arkansas, and the Platte River Valley towards Nebraska.

Highway 24, Trout Creek Pass









North of Buena Vista on Highway 24






Arriving Leadville around 8:00 PM, Seth’s bike is already parked and covered for the night. The temperature has already dipped into the upper forties, but that hasn’t phased Seth one bit, he’s already iced down the beer! Now that’s a great riding partner! This night will be our first solid night of rest since leaving.

End of Day 2
Location: Leadville, Colorado
GPS Mileage = 1441 miles
Today’s Mileage = 323

Route Map: Day 2

<<  <    Next Page (Page 5 of 40)    >  >>
  #1  
By Chocoholic on 07-21-2006, 09:20 PM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

great story and trip...thanks for sharing it with us. Give me more chill wanting to go cross country......
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  #2  
By G8ESCAP on 07-22-2006, 06:48 AM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

What a great job you did putting all this together Mark, and I'm only on page 12 so far! Has to be the finest post on the forum. Well worth the wait! Makes me want to get on my bike and go, if only it wasn't going to be 110 degrees here today!
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  #3  
By goldwinghen3 on 07-23-2006, 04:58 PM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

THAT was one incredible ride...Your pictures are fabulous !!!! it took me 6 hours to read and look at your trip....You should publish this with some one...That has got to be the most amazing picture story around...I can't imagine how long it took you to publish this on here...How did you remember all of the names of the pictures and you amaze me that your spelling wasso good.......I am going to read it again when I have more time,,,I loved it !!! Isn't the Western U.S. GORGEOUS ??!!!!!!!!.......If you are ever in California again...look me up.....Thanx for the wonderful trip !!!!!....Henry
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  #4  
By Helmetdance on 07-24-2006, 03:19 PM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Fenny - That's great that you have been inspired to do some long-distance touring by reading my story. Even if you don't do that right away, you are lucky to live in the land of the best motorcycle roads in the world.

Dale - Thanks for the kind words. Still working some bugs out of it with Gary's help, but its nice to have it up on the board where the Pashnit gang can finally read it.

Henry - Thanks for the compliments. My intention is to eventually condense this down into a book. I didn't keep track of the hours, but there were many all-day as well as all-night sessions. There are a lot of hours wrapped up in this piece. Remember the names? If only I could do that, the amount of work would have been a fraction. I identified the names from maps, info on the internet, google earth, and lots and lots of internet searching. Tagging the pics with names required a whole lotta searching.
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  #5  
By JimmieS on 07-24-2006, 07:55 PM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Mark,

Truly a spectacular way to spend 30 + days and nights. You have seen the best of the best with the best of the best out there, and I have to give huge Kudos to you for the execution of this most amazing trip, and the all out perfect photo essay to accompany it. I can't imagine what it was like for you to take on such a huge ride, and still be able to communicate your daily excitement a year later. Well done. Well done indeed.

As I mentioned on another forum to you my wife and I just completed our 30 day circumnavigation of the US, and I am just beginning to put that story together to share here on Pashnit. I'm humbled by your style and class. Next time your in Ca. you had best remember to include me in your ride plans along with DaleC and Dorian - (man am I irritated with those two for not letting me in on the time they spent with you....)

Great job!
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  #6  
By gpickren on 07-25-2006, 09:57 AM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Fabulous ride pics and commentary, Mark. We live in So. Cal and as soon as we are able my wife and I will ride most of your route. Omitting the Kansas and eastern Colorado part I think.

We have been unable to travel for a long time do to caring for her 94 year old father, but when his race is finished we will plan to go. Thanks for the inspiration.
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  #7  
By Michael Bishop on 08-06-2006, 07:14 AM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Mark you did a great job giving a us a taste of your experience. I have been waiting for this from the time I read you was doing the trip.
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  #8  
By harryvbr on 08-13-2006, 10:40 AM
Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Great trip! I enjoyed the beautifull pictures. I was so lucky in 2002 to make almost the same trip by Goldwing. That Goldwing I could rent at Everett Motorsports.
Every now and than I look at the pictures I took.

Harry Vanbruggen
the Netherlands
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  #9  
By bangladave on 08-13-2006, 11:04 AM
Clapping2 Re: 34 Days Through the Western United States and Canada

Mark, GREAT POST I have followed Pashnit for that last couple of years and your story is truly a great one. I have been looking at some of the same areas to ride through one day soon. We would be heading there from Minnesota so we need some extended time to do it. Keep following you dreams.

Dave
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