We spent last night at the Retro Inn in Cortez, and said good-bye to the Elvis statue on the front lawn as we headed out of town.
We rode east on 160, passing Mesa Verde National Park, where there are over 600 cliff dwellings that were home to the Ancestral Pueblo people from AD 600-1300. We stayed here several years ago and absolutely loved the ride up to the top of the mesa along the curving road, and the ranger-led tour gave us an in-depth look at the cliff dwellings.
160 took us into Durango, where we turned north onto 550 for a motorcyclist's dream ride through the mountains with hairpin turns, curving roads, and stunning views.
The storm clouds kept building as we climbed Coal Bank Pass at 10,640', and then onto Molas Pass at 10,910' where we stopped for a short break.
It started raining soon after we left Molas Pass, and luckily we stopped to put on our raingear before the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started raining hard. We rode in and out of the rain as we descended into Silverton, an old mining town that is a National Historic Landmark and the southern end of the Million Dollar Highway that winds through the San Juan Mountains from Silverton to Ouray. In the late 1800's this area was prime mining country, and remnants of mining activity are easily visible from the highway.
We've ridden this route before, although never in the rain. The narrow 2-lane highway hugs the mountains on one side and drops off thousands of feet - without guardrails - on the other. I managed to get some video in-between the rain as we headed into Ouray.
Ouray sits at 7,792' nestled in the San Juan Mountains alongside the Uncompahgre River. We stopped for lunch and sat outside on the roof enjoying our sandwiches and watching the traffic on the street below us - until it started to rain again.
550 winds along the Uncompahgre River to Montrose, where we turned east on 50. It was a good thing we kept the raingear on, as we rode through intermittent rain and a couple of spots of hail. It's fun to watch the rain streaming down from the clouds - until we're in the middle of it!
We rode along the Curecanti National Recreation Area, a series of three reservoirs along the Gunnison River. Normally we see numerous boats on the water, but the weather today kept everyone home.
We even managed a photo opportunity during a delay for road construction, and were lucky that the rain held off while we were stopped.
We had been looking forward to this day since we planned our trip since we love this mountain route on the BMW. Tomorrow we have a shorter ride planned to Boulder, where we'll stop for the weekend to visit our kids. Our trip home starts again on Monday - and since we haven't planned our route yet, you'll be surprised right along with us!