It was 40 degrees when I hit the road at 8:00 am headed for points west. Phil and Kathy had a hard time finding a room in either Price or Green River and wound up riding all the way to Grand Junction in the middle of the night. I happened to be awake at 2:30 when they pinged me to let me know where they were. We were going to meet up at some point during the day, we just needed to figure out where. Because I had further to go, we decided I would get an early start and they would sleep in an hour or so longer.
I’m not usually a big fan of pounding out miles on the Interstate, but I-70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic stretches of Interstate I’ve ever been on. Glenwood Canyon in particular was incredible looking at the Colorado River boil and churn over rapids that were unbelievable. When I stopped in Rifle at the Visitor’s Center, I mentioned how they picked a great place to put the Interstate and the hostess said, “That was the only place they could.” Driving down I-15 through Utah is like watching beige paint dry compared to I-70.
Looking at the map, it looked like the junction with Highway 65 through the Grand Mesa area was a great road (at least according to the map) and a better place to meet than Montrose. It was only about 30 or so minutes from Grand Junction, so we decided to see if my Butler Map was right. It was.
Without a doubt, it was one of the funnest sections of highway I’ve ever been on. It felt like a road custom-made for a motorcycle as we climbed. And to think it was a last-minute addition to the ride blows my mind. This section of highway is definitely worth doing again. My Butler map listed several sections of this ride as the best Colorado has to offer and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It’s called the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway and I highly recommend the stretch from the junction with I-70 to Cederedge.
I was running low on gas so we stopped in Delta to gas up and went a little further to Montrose to stop for lunch. We decided to continue south on 550 instead of taking 62 and 145 toward Cortez like we did a couple of Memorial Day Weekends ago. The road over Red Mountain Pass is called the “Million Dollar Highway.” Expect a lot of slow-speed hairpin turns and some very exposed shoulders. It. Was. A. Blast.
I was very glad for the low-end torque on my Road King climbing through the hairpins. While there was a fair amount of traffic on the road, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. We stopped a time or two to take in the views. We dropped into Silverton far too early for me. After the obligatory stop at the “Highest Harley Store in the World” we went next door and had a very tasty chocolate milkshake at the Brown Bear Restaurant.
I couldn’t help but think of Park City as we walked down Main Street in Silverton. However, unlike Park City, it looked like this town had almost been forgotten. The hostess in Rifle told me there was a day when the only way to get to Silverton was either by walking, riding a horse, or by train. I’m glad there’s a road.
I love mountain passes and this one certainly didn’t dissapoint. The little towns that dotted the highway definitely had their roots in mining and are now catering to folks like us who are passing though. Although we didn’t stop, Ouray looked like a very charming town. I took a photo looking back down the canyon at it when we stopped for Phil and Kathy to layer up—as we climbed the temperature started to drop.
Heading down into Durango the road was closed for an hour or so because of an accident on the highway, so we didn’t beat the rain that had been predicted for late afternoon. About 25 miles out of Durango it started to rain and followed us all the way into town. It’s been a couple hours since we settled in and it’s still coming down.
It’s hard not to appreciate what a beautiful part of the world we live in. Today’s ride was one of the most enjoyable days in the saddle I’ve ever spent. This is one of those trips worth doing again.