2002 trip to the Big Dog Ride

At the cabin in Athens Packing up at the Cabin Flat countryside in Kansas Flat countryside in Kansas Friday after work, I beelined for Hagerstown MD to meet up with Meredith for the trip out to Colorado. We slabbed (on nicer-than ordinary slab) on I-68 and I-79 until Clarksburg, where we got onto US50 headed for Athens, where we were staying at a friend's B&B.  US50 would be really cool at about 130mph on a K12RS!  Constant sweepers and hills made us nearly forget we were on 4-lane.
Meredith zooming in Indiana
Meredith zooming in Indiana

Saturday we headed out of town on Route 56, which is a really nice 2-lane that twists through the countryside and eventually has anice twisty section through Hocking Hills.  From there we continued on to I-70 to Indianapolis, where we saw the hairiest H-D rider in the world (too bad I didn't get a picture!) and then picked up US36.  Dinner in Jacksonville IN (hint: don't go there) and then  for the remaining 700+ miles to Denver.  Night fell and we couldn't stomach the thought of a $55+ motel room for only 8 hours, so we pitched the tent in a city park in Hannibal Missouri.  Guerilla camping at its best!

Sunday we hit the road, which was now nearly deserted.  US36 is mostly 2-lane, and we went through more corn than you can imagine. As we got into Kansas, the terrain changed from corn to rangeland and back several times, becoming increasingly hot and dry as we got to the western part of the state.  One interesting site was about 20 or 30 locomotives, seemingly abandoned on a siding in mid-Kansas.

In Colorado it even got drier.  By the time we got to the town of Anton, things were pretty parched and so were we, but the stores were closed and all there was available was a water faucet tasting of plastic.  We hit the road again, with Denver only an hour away now, for the last blast into town. Around this point the Rockies started to come into view for the first time.  We passed this neat-looking oasis town about 30 miles out of Denver, and got to Olivia's house about 6:00.

The next morning (Monday) I changed the tires on the PD from Avon Distanzias to Continental TKC-80 knobbies and we went for a ride out to Mt. Evans via Rt. 6.  This is a really pretty canyon road but the traffic made it a bit hard to play. We intended to catch 103 and take that to Mt. Evans but we missed the turn and ended up getting there through Idaho Springs.  Oh well; it's all pretty! The paved road leading to the top is the highest auto road in the US (Mt. Evans is higher than Pike's Peak; 14,265 vs. 14,110 but Pike's Peak gets all of the attention because the gravel road is so much worse).  It was great!  And cold; at the top we just left our gear on as we walked around admiring the view.  As you can see in the pictures, the clouds were below us giving a really neat effect.  The lack of guard rails made for some very spectacular views; surprisingly it didn't get to me and we ended up zooming around the switchbacks with cautious abandon.
Descending Mt. Evans

After returning to Idaho Springs for lunch we headed west to Georgetown and then crossed Guanella Pass, which is basically a nicely-groomed gravel road that connects to 285 to the south. Guanella, unlike the bigger passes to the west, is in very active service as a thoroughfare so we saw our share of traffic up there. Meredith and I switched bikes for this part so she could have the knobbies, but her R1100GS (on a pretty slick rear Tourance) didn't have much of a problem.  Arriving in Grant, we chilled out a bit and then headed back to Denver.  A short day, but welcome after the long ride out from the east coast.

At the summit Descending

The base of Tincup Cottonwood pass, looking east. Tuesday, we packed up and left Denver headed to Buena Vista for the start of the ride.  We went out on 285 the same way we came home from Guanella, but basically kept going west all the way to 24, where Buena Vista is.  We dumped our gear at the KOA just south of town, grabbed lunch at a diner and headed up Cottonwood Pass.  Our frst real pass of the trip! We weren't expecting the road to turn to dirt on the west side but it was hard-packed and we could keep the speed up.
Taking the PD up a tough section

The bottom of Cottonwood leads to Taylor Reservoir, and we continued south to Tincup.  Tincup is a town of small huts that seems to cater entirely to people riding and hunting in the mountains. We went through Tincup, thinking we would cross Tincup Pass and get back to Buena Vista via St. Elmo, or go down to Pitkin and work our way back home via US50, but a few miles in we could see that it just wasn't going to happen.  Some really rough sections at the bottom just past the lake were more than we wanted to deal with, and ATV riders coming from St. Elmo said it was a lot worse further up.  It looked like we could have gotten past the rocks and then had a clear trail until we were above the treeline, but I needed to save the bike (Meredith was riding it today!) for the next two days and we didn't want to get back too late, so we turned back and backtracked to Buena Vista where we started finding clumps of GS riders all over the place.

The first group of people we met, I ended up riding with the next day.  Ronnie, Dale and Tim were hanging around at one of the Motels and we had a beer together and changed Meredith's rear tire (which I had sent from the east coast in Barry's trailer).  Dinner, and back to the tent for the night.  Big day tomorrow.

Next: Big Dog, Day 1.