Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Back on the bike after a weekend in Denver

We spent the weekend in Denver with our kids, using Lyft to get around instead of our motorcycle.

The first 40 miles today were on busy, congested, Monday-morning Denver traffic highways so we could get out of the city and on our way northwest. Today's destination is Thermopolis, Wyoming, the site of the world's largest mineral hot springs.

The real fun started when we turned onto US Route 40, riding what Butler Motorcycle Maps calls one of the most fun and difficult rides in the country.

Route 40 twists and turns up and over the Continental Divide through Berthoud Pass at 11,307'. The temperature dropped to 42 degrees at one point as we descended down the shady side of the pass.

This wasn't the only pass we climbed, or the only time we crossed the Continental Divide today. Route 40 continued on over Muddy Pass at 8,772' and Rabbit Ears Pass at 9,426', each time crossing the Continental Divide.

Along the way we saw numerous road signs advertising F.M. Light & Sons cowboy outfitters since 1905 in Steamboat, and then the actual store on the main street. The signs are a good reminder that this area was popular long before it became a tourist and ski destination.

Once we rode through the busy traffic in Steamboat Springs, we continued on Route 40 along the Yampa River, a mostly wide and shallow river that flows through the green countryside.

We crossed into Wyoming with wide-open views to the horizon, clear blue skies, and pronghorn antelope munching the grass along the side of the mostly open road with almost no traffic.

We continued on WY 287 North through Sweetwater Station, near where the Oregon/Mormon trail crossed the Sweetwater River during the Mormons westward migration from Illinois in 1846-47. This road is named after Shoshone Chief Washakie who was instrumental in signing important treaties and establishing this trade route.

We stopped at the scenic lookout on the top of the Beaver Rim Escarpment where trappers and traders met in the 1830's to exchange goods. We could see over the Wind River Basin to the Absaroke Mountain Range 120 miles away at the border of Montana and Wyoming.

We wound our way down the escarpment into the Wind River Valley and the Shoshone Reservation. Route 20 is the Wind River Scenic Byway, and scenic doesn't even come close to describing the twisting road that snakes along the river through the steep and rocky gorge.

The scenic byway ends at the town of Thermopolis, our stopping point for the night. It's the first time we've been on the motorcycle in Wyoming, and we loved the changing scenery and roads tailor-made for motorcycles.

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