Colorado Motorcycle Trip

Independence Pass
Ride Pikes Peak – 14,000′ and No guardrails

A Colorado motorcycle trip has been on the bucket list forever, but it was way down in the deepest part of that pail.  Almost so deep, I wasn’t sure we ever reach that one.  Riding a motorcycle in Colorado has always been a high priority, but getting there from Oregon, that’s a Bridge (Road) Too Far….almost.

As we have checked off so many of the other western United States, “must see” spots, it just kept calling to us.  Glacier was magnificent, Yellowstone the trip of a lifetime, Zion & southern Utah, breathtaking.

Really smoky near the top of Pikes Peak

Colorado motorcycle trip, where the entire state is a motorcycle riders paradise.  The majestic Rocky Mountains, the unbelievable views and not a straight section of road anywhere to be found outside of the Interstates….we needed to go, we had to go. But damn, it’s 2200 miles roundtrip to Denver, and I wanted to ride 2000 miles around the state, minimum.  I have a job, they expect me to show up, this is a problem.

Trips with Karla

Colorado Motorcycle Trip
Karla puts the color in my world

Trips without Karla

We explored shipping the bike ahead and flying to Denver.  I would need to rent a storage space, have the bike delivered, someone meet it, store it and on and on. I gave up.  I would wait until retirement before I could pluck that shiny diamond from the bucket list.

My boss Scott, he rides a Ducati.  He rides long and fast, he rides alone.  I could do this trip alone, I can ride 600 miles a day.  If I could get to Denver in two days, it might work.  But if I go alone, I leave 60% of the fun behind.

I’ve done trips without Karla and it’s like seeing the NBC peacock before color TV.  Yes, I’ll ride; anytime, anywhere. But without her, it’s as if the color is gone from my world. One day I was in Scott’s office, talking motorcycles, lamenting my fate; no Colorado for me.  He says, “Why doesn’t Karla fly to Denver and you ride it in two days?  What?  That’s brilliant, why didn’t I think of that?  Having a boss that rides long motorcycle trips…..Winning! 

The flight to Denver is two hours, I suppose it was an air-conditioned airplane, one of those fancy ones. But the seats are small and those snacks, ugh.   About 10 hours into my first day, I was crossing eastern Idaho in 109 degrees. 

Karla sent me a photo; laying by some swimming pool, yeah that looked really uncomfortable.  I replied with a photo of a thermometer.   At least I wasn’t in some TSA line.

Planning a Colorado Motorcycle Trip

There is one website that has already done the work.  Ken Bingenheimer is the owner.  Ken is a long time Colorado motorcyclist and he knows Colorado Motorcycle roads.

This site was our starting place with a listing of all the great routes.  There are about 50 roads listed and we tried to include 20 of them in our trip.  

Everyone knows the, “Million Dollar Highway.”  Some people will go to Colorado just to ride it.  Many people will only ride that, “Top Ten in America” road…and miss so many others.  

The Million Dollar Highway is a great road for sure, you should ride it.  However, after riding all over the state, I would say, in Colorado, it’s only in the top 5.  In my opinion, it’s the most famous, but it’s not the best. 

2Vegans2Wheels has an entire section on, “How to Plan a Motorcycle Trip.

I read about riders covering; 600, 700 miles a day, that’s possible if you’re riding freeways.

 Personally, I hate riding the slab.  However, when you’re just trying to get as far, as fast as you can, it’s the only way to go.  I spent hours with the speedometer north of 90 mph. 

When I saw a school bus approaching in my mirror and I was doing 85, I was shocked.  

I logged 550 miles on the first day and parked in Ogden, UT.  I was beat. The ride out of Ogden crossing the Wasatch Range is beautiful.  

Colorado Motorcycle Trip
There are nothing but trucks and a whole lot of nothing on I-80

Second day was 600 miles across Wyoming, I won’t bore you.

Colorado Motorcycle Trip was not a city trip

If you’re doing a Colorado Motorcycle Trip you really need to include a ride up Pikes Peak.  I remember learning about this place from Bugs Bunny cartoons, so how could I pass it up?

$15 per person, because it’s a private road but worth the $$.  It’s paved all the way to the top, but the parking lot in 2018 was gravel.  The gravel is thin and packed, it’s not a problem.

Bishop Castle

Bishop Castle

Who am I to question a man’s dream?  What has become a pretty famous, “Roadside Attraction” started in the mind of a 15 year old Coloradan.

Jim Bishop bought this piece of land in 1969 for $450. One thing led to another.  Part plan, part passion and a dose of, “You can’t tell me what to do with MY property” became the castle.

We seek out known Roadside Attractions on any trip.  From smaller ones such as the, “World’s Largest Frying Pan” to Bishop Castle they’re all interesting.

Bishop Castle
Built by hand and inventions, it’s 45 years in the making. It was rest time when we found Mr. Bishop

There are, Motorcycle Roads” and there are, “MOTORCYCLE ROADS”

Made famous to me by, Dom Chang of “A Redlegs Rides blog” fame, there is a road.  Further encouraged by, Gary France of, “France In America.”  I needed to find this road.  

Canon City, CO. is north of Bishop Castle and Southwest of Pikes Peak.  There is a lot of space and roads in Colorado, getting lost is not too difficult. 

Skyline Drive is a ridge line road that you don’t need to drive, but you must drive.  It doesn’t take you anywhere, it’s just the way you need to go. 

For a road to be a, “Motorcycle Road,” they usually have lots of curves.  Skyline Drive is fairly straight, which is probably a good thing.  Should you tell your passenger every little detail about every road…beforehand?  Sometimes I do and some things are better left unsaid.  I think she appreciated experiencing this one as it happened.

Estes Park
 

Estes Park Downtown Colorado
Downtown Estes Park
 
Estes Park Public Square
Vibrant downtown community events
Himalayan Curry & Kebob Estes Park Colorado
Himalayan Curry & Kebob
Estes Park Riverwalk
Beautiful Riverwalk thru town
Best Western Silver Saddle Inn Estes Park Colorado
Best Western Silver Saddle Inn
 
Stanley Hotel
Stanley Hotel – The Shining – Estes Park CO

You know the place from, “The Shining.”  The Stanley Hotel; the haunted one, the place to stay in Estes Park!   We considered it, but since this trip was so over-booked leaving us short on time, we stayed at Best Western.  

I just didn’t have time to be fighting ghosts and arguing with the dead.  

However, the Silver Saddle Inn was a great place for one night.  It was clean, nothing creaked and the staff was so nice,

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t haunted. 

Colorado Motorcycle Trip 

Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is the gateway to RMNP.  Just a short drive from town and you’re on the, “Trail Ridge Road.”  Consider another bucket list ride for motorcyclists, it is the highest continuous road in America. 

Just a small part of RMNP, on the road you’ll spend a significant portion above 11,000′.  It looks a bit like tundra with wide open spaces and views.  We did not take advantage of all the outdoor opportunities it has to offer.  With our breakneck pace, we simply rode through to say we had. 

If you’ve read any of our previous Trip Reports to National Parks, you know we go early and avoid the crowds.  On this day we were into the park at 0630, alone. 

Only the animals and a few park employees shared the park with us.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Elk out for a morning walk.  We pulled over for more photos.  Turned out to be about 50 in the herd. 
 

The summer of 2018 was a bad year for forest fires.  The smoke is sometimes more visible than others in our photos, but it was bad.  We took way fewer photos than usual on this kind of trip, just because the views were obscured. 

It’s one of the risks we take in planning & making reservations months in advance.  It was still worth the trip, it’s just sad that we’re having so many fires out west these recent years. 

There were times when we knew the scenery must be spectacular, but we were surrounded by haze.

Highest continuous paved road in US. Trail Ridge Road, 11,000′

Buena Vista Colorado

House Rock Kitchen
 Don’t miss this one
One of the best outdoor patios ever

Stay at the Best Western Vista Inn

This must have been the friendliest hotel we have found.  These folks made you feel like you were family and were staying at their house! 

Next up – Independence Pass

12,000′

If I haven’t said it already, A Colorado Motorcycle Trip is about riding great motorcycle roads.  There is an endless supply and you want to ride them all….but you can’t.

So you do have to set priorities.  One of them is Independence Pass.  It’s famous, it’s steep, it’s sometimes one lane with no guardrails and it’s closed in the winter.

Average snowfall is over 200″

Weather & Colorado Motorcycle Trip

I am laughed at as one of the most over-prepared motorcycle travellers.  OK, it’s just Karla laughing at me, but still. 

I never travel without rain gear and in Colorado you would be a fool to go without rain gear.  We used it often, as in almost daily.  Mountain weather, also known as, “Colorado Weather.”  

You’ll be as low as 6000′ in elevation and as high as 14,000′, yes all of Colorado is mountain weather.  Typical of these elevations, there  are afternoon showers.  It may only rain for 5 minutes, or 5 miles or it may rain for an hour. 

The rain was never a problem, but it rained and we expected it.  It was sunny and hot and then it was not.  I did not pack heated gear, it was August.  I may have been tricked.

On the early (0600) ride over Independence Pass, I was freezing.  I almost gave up.  I had to stop and warm my hands on the engine, gloves were not enough.  Later that day it was hot, and I mean hot. 

Riding the lift at Aspen Mtn. One of Karla’s favorite places in the world
One of the rare times we didn’t climb up and ride down

What to expect in part 2 of the Colorado Motorcycle Trip

  • Southwest Colorado
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • San Juan Mountains
  • Duragon-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
  • Million Dollar Highway
  • North to, “Hanging Lake”
  • And so much more

Thank you for sticking it out and reading this far.  I hope the story inspires you to go to Colorado, or get on your motorcycle and go anywhere. 

Life is best lived through experiences and emotions.

Motorcycles offer both

“Life is Short, Start Living Now”

 

Random dog photo

2 Comments

  1. Connie Schwedes says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip. We are heading on a cross country trip this summer. You’ve given us some great info on Colorado.

    • Don Hamon says:

      Connie, I’m glad it was helpful You could spend a month riding in Colorado and still not see it all. It’s tough to set priorities.

      Have a great trip.

      Don

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