Red Rocks is a striking example of how wonderfully beautiful Mother Nature can be. Giant slabs and deep red color, crash out of the ground at exaggerated angles. There is an amphitheater here which has hosted some very memorable rock concerts. Iíve seen the video of that famous U2 performance a million times. Chuck has actually been here before. He saw a Jethro Tull concert, years ago. COOL!
A few better turns later and Iíve got us back on track. Before we know it weíre heading up the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, traversing the eastern front of Coloradoís Front Range. The road is very twisty and Iím taking it easy. Iíve got new rubber on the rear wheel, and it needs to be broken in for about a hundred miles. A quick lunch at Annieís Cafť in Nederland, and an hour later weíre in Estes Park, the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
We cruise up the spiraling Trail Ridge Road, ascending to 12,183 feet. This park is enormous with more than one third of the land above the tree line. The surrounding tundra makes me feel like Iím in the Arctic, except there isnít much snow right now. The road drops off thousands of feet on either side, and you canít even see the valley floor below. Towering wooden poles, at least 20 feet high, line the road for the snowplows. Come spring, one false move for those brave souls and itís a very long trip down.
We reach the Alpine Visitor Center (11,796 feet) about 10 minutes before they close and get our passports stamped. I thought the stamp up here would be something special, or at least say Alpine on it. But itís just the same one they have at the other visitors' centers. The building has gigantic timbers attached to the roof to keep the snow from collapsing the structure. In a few months there will be nothing here but fields of snow.
A few minutes later and weíre at Milner Pass where you can plant a foot on either side of the Continental Divide. Iíve crisscrossed the divide so many times in the past couple of weeks that Iíve lost count. But this is the last time Iíll traverse it until I head back east at the end of October. We stop the bikes, park them on either side of the marker and take some photos.
As we head down the other side towards the Pacific, I notice the changing Aspens. Iíve almost forgotten itís fall, but the colorful leaves remind me that it is the middle of September. Itís easy to lose track of time on a journey like this. All I know is it's day 31. Iím not even sure what day of the week it is. Every day is filled with so much experience that days feel like weeks and weeks feel like months. Something I did last month feels like a lifetime ago. Back in New York, every day seemed the same. But here, on the road, every moment is different.
We make a quick stop at Grand Lake, a jewel tucked between the mountains, and Coloradoís largest natural lake. The Colorado River starts here, the waters making their way towards the Grand Canyon. By the time we arrive in Steamboat Springs, at the home of Carole and Burton Cohen, the sun has set. The Cohens, although no relation to me, are great family friends from Poughkeepsie. Burton is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist just like my father. He and Carole moved to Poughkeepsie in 1968, a couple of years after my parents arrived. When Burton retired, they moved out here to Colorado. I donít think theyíre missing old Po-Town one bit.
Construction sites are a minefield for motorcycles, filled with potential disasters. Obstacles that are nothing in an automobile, are big deals on a bike. Tar, oil, gravel, dirt, and mud are all things no road faring biker wants to encounter. One false move and you could go down.
Coming up route 119 on the Peak to Peak, Chuck and I had a horrible road construction experience. Iím in the lead when I crest a hill and there, in the middle of the road, is a Signalman with a STOP sign in his hand. There is no warning, no "road work ahead" signs, no nothing. Just this guy waiting to get hit by a truck streaming over this hill. I have no problem stopping and the guy sends me along. But when I round the turn I run right into a hill of freshly laid asphalt, about 6 inches high. I can see the workers 200 yards down the road, but there is nothing telling me which way to go around this mess. Itís right in the middle of the road and I can hear the bits of wet asphalt being kicked up by my wheels and coating my motorcycle. At least they could have put some cones down.
I get near the workers and yell to them that their signage sucks. They tell me to screw off. I tell them to go F@&! themselves. One of them takes a swing at me with his shovel as I ride by! I consider stopping the bike, but there are about six of them. I would have had a great lawsuit against the State of Colorado though! Chuck makes it through around the other side of them and we continue on our way. Suddenly, Iíve lost that respect I had for those road workers.
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