Friday, August 29, 2014

Sunshine followed by rain from Durango to Boulder on the BMW

The battery on my camera quit about the same time the dark clouds that had been threatening for the past  hour decided to open up and pour rain on us.

Just another day on the BMW motorcycle traveling through Colorado.

We started this morning in Durango, at 6500' in the bottom of the Animas River Valley. When I went for a run along the river at 6:30 am the temperature was 44 degrees, and by the time we left at 8:15 it had warmed up to the low 50's. We headed east on Route 160 under clear, bright blue skies along the northern edge of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation and into the San Juan National Forest that covers over 1,800,00 acres.

We alternated between stick-straight roads with distant views of the Rockies to sweeping curves that wound through the forest. When we reached Pagosa Springs, a small town at 7,000' on the western edge of the Continental Divide, we came to the first of several areas of road construction. I didn't mind the slower speeds because the sun was bright and the scenery gorgeous.

Just past Pagosa Springs we started the curving trek up Wolf Creek Pass and the Continental Divide. When settlers first came through this area it would take 2-3 weeks to travel the 42 miles between Pagosa Springs and South Fork. Today we zoomed along the highway which narrows to 2 winding, twisting lanes on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.

When we moved from Vermont to Arizona last July, we traveled the opposite direction on 160, and stopped at the Continental Divide to mark the journey. Today we kept going, sweeping down the eastern side of the pass into the Rio Grande National Forest.

At Del Norte we turned north onto Colorado Route 112, riding through the flat farmland in the San Luis Valley.

The distant mountains were only a dark smudge in the distance, but as we headed north on Route 285 we knew we would be riding through these mountains before the end our trip today. We stopped for lunch at the quirky Coyote Cantina just outside Buena Vista and sat outside in the courtyard to enjoy the sunshine and temperatures that had warmed into the 70's.

Our optimism about a sunny day came to a crashing halt less than 30 minutes after getting back on the BMW after lunch as the puffy white clouds turned dark gray, the wind picked up, the temperature dove toward 60 and we felt the first drops of rain. We stopped and put on our raingear and watched the clouds continue to build over the mountains as we rode through the Arkansas River Valley.

By the time we reached Kenosha Pass at 10,000', we were riding in and out of rain with little hope of seeing the sun again today. The traffic built the closer we came toward metropolitan Denver, not unexpected on Friday afternoon of the Labor Day weekend holiday. The combination of rain and traffic made this my least favorite section of today's 390 miles.

We ended the day walking down Pearl Street in Boulder with Duncan and Nate, making plans to spend the next two days with them. Monday we turn southwest toward Arizona and home, taking a different route and looking forward to new sights. Preferably, with sunshine.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A perfect day on the BMW motorcycle in Arizona and Colorado

As we were riding along Arizona 89, heading north from Flagstaff to our destination in Durango, Colorado, we rode through a vast expanse of high desert, where sediments deposited 200 million years ago in the Jurassic period look like sand dunes.

We're on our way to Boulder, Colorado, to visit our kids over the Labor Day weekend. We've been on these roads several times in the past year, yet we continue to enjoy the changing landscape. We started the day riding through tall, dense pine forests that covered the mountains on our way north to Flagstaff, then dropped down into a sandy brown desert that stretched for miles in front of us.

We turned east onto 160 into the Hopi and then the Navajo reservations and the landscape changed again into rocky, different colored buttes and mesas.

It was a perfect day to be on the BMW:  bright sun, blue skies, and temperatures in the 70's. We alternated between stretches of flat, straight road and areas where the pavement swept in wide curves around the canyons and mesas.

When we crossed into Colorado near the Four Corners, where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet - the only location in the United States where four states meet - the landscape changed once again, this time into irrigated green fields backed by forest-covered mountains.

We rode through the Mancos Valley, past Mesa Verde national park where the Ancient Puebloans settled over 1000 years ago in cliff dwellings carved out of the sandstone. We're staying in busy Durango in the Animas River Valley, surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, where we spent the last night of a trip to Colorado in July. It was hot and sticky here in July, and today we enjoyed the cooler temperatures as the season changes from Summer to Fall.

Tomorrow we continue northeast to Boulder, riding through the Rocky Mountains. We're looking forward to steep climbs and winding descents - and to seeing Duncan and Nate!