The Movie Manor Motel in Monte Vista Colorado combines a Best Western motel with a drive-in movie theater. Each room in the motel boasts large windows that face the drive-in movie screen. All we had to do was open the curtains and flip the switch for sound, and we watched Despicable Me 2 without stepping foot outside our room - named for Paul Newman.
Before breakfast with Duncan and Nate, we went for a walk on the 4 Mile Creek trail in Boulder. The trail winds through a prairie dog village and even though I'm sure the local residents view them as annoying pests, we enjoyed watching them running around their burrows.
This was the first - and only - day of our trip that we spent entirely in one state. We expected roads that snaked through the Rockies but we forgot about the flat and wide open high plains that are part of the Rocky Mountain area.
We were hoping for twisting hairpin turns through the mountains, but instead enjoyed sweeping vistas and wide curves as we followed Route 285 for the majority of the day. We rode past Red Rocks Park that houses a large outdoor amphitheatre built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941.
The highest elevation of today's trip was 10,000' at Kenosha Pass where we had views of mountains topping out at 14,000'.
As we crossed over the top of the pass, the 1000 square mile South Park grassland basin spread out in front of us.
Prospectors looking for gold crossed Kenosha Pass in the late 1800's, leaving ridges of gravel from the mining operations behind. The small towns are spread far apart and we felt like we were riding through Nebraska or Iowa again - except for the mountains that ringed the grassland on all sides.
The Collegiate Peaks, a large wilderness area that boasts several mountains higher than 14,000', came into view as we headed toward Buena Vista. Mt. Harvard at 14,421', Mt. Yale at 14,202' and Mt. Oxford at 14,160' are three of the peaks in this Sawatch Range of the Rockies.
We stopped for gas and chatted with the owners of a restored chuck wagon used by pioneers as they traveled West in the late 1800's. They told us about chuck wagon competitions, where particpants dress in period constume and use historic cooking utensils to prepare authentic meals. Their chuck wagon was on a flatbed trailer today, but it's usually pulled by mules. We decided chuck wagon competitions are the Western version of Revolutionary War re-enactments that occur in New England, and we're looking forward to attending one in the near future.
We ended the day riding through the 122 mile long San Luis Valley, a high desert basin at about 7,000' elevation. Route 285 stretched flat and straight in front of us as we passed small herds of cattle and mile after mile of dry grassland interspersed with irrigated green fields of potatoes, barley for the Coors brewing company, and quinoa.
It seemed like every time we wound our way up through the mountains, the landscape changed. We rode through dense green pine forests, gravel and sandstone rocky mountain sides, dry desert plains, river valleys lined with aspens, and cultivated fields. We spent 5 hours on the motorcycle today, all within the state of Colorado and most of the time over 7,000' elevation. There's a lot more of Colorado to explore tomorrow.