Should you force yourself to go on vacation?
At 6:00am on Sunday, bands of snow roamed Colorado Springs. Webcams on several mountain passes showed snow-covered roads, with more snow falling. My 1150GS laid cozy in the garage, festooned with all the gear needed for a 4-day desert-exploration trip in Moab.
My long-suffering sweetie Kait, was quick to point out that this was the same time-period in which my younger brother and his wife flipped their AWD Subaru over Lizard Pass in a blinding snowstorm. I had all the reasons needed to call it off and spend 4 days in my garage relaxing with some Jungle records and my mechanical projects.
In the end, I realized that I couldn’t justify not trying to make the trip. If a blinding snowstorm barred my way, then so be it. I had to at least give the universe the opportunity to let me pass.
At noon, I patted the dogs on the head and gave Kait a long kiss before stirring the 1150GS to life and rolling out of town.
It wasn’t warm, but the roads were clear and winding. My apprehension started to fade, replaced with the simple joy that empty, curving roads brings to any motorcyclist.
I rolled into Salida and stopped to warm up my insides with a cup of coffee. As I lit up a cigarette, an older woman stepped out of her car and exclaimed “Great! If someone else is smoking, people won’t look at me like I’m a terrible person”. I chuckled and we delved into a loosely organized conversation.
She had recently relocated from Denver after 35 years to the smaller town of Montrose, and couldn’t say enough about it. She was a rather eccentric woman, who spoke often with her hands accompanied with some interesting facial ticks.
She did provide good intel on Monarch pass (which I was headed over); While it was snowing, the roads were simply wet and not snow-packed. There was hope still!
As the temperature on the approach to the pass plummeted, I set the BMW heated grips to the “Incinerate” setting and tucked my scarf up into my helmet to save as much heat as I could.
The road started out innocently enough; littered with sand from plows but generally dry. Further up it got wet and sandy. Near the top, it was wet and slushy without any clear indication if the wet sections were ice or just water. I dodged slushy spots and grimaced over shaded “wet” areas, unsure if I was riding onto ice or puddles through 30mph curves.
It was a cold and harrowing experience, but the relief on the other side was overwhelming. It was the highest pass I’d go over on my ride out to Moab, with the most unpredictable weather. Everything else after this should be (warmer) gravy by comparison.
Temps warmed up to the mid 40’s on the other side of the pass, with sparse patches of sunlight. The GS purred along at 70mph in overdrive and life on a motorcycle was once again happy and carefree. Perspective is a powerful tool in rationality. Spring is also baby cow season, and its always fun to watch them prancing around in youthful exuberance.
I stopped briefly outside Gunnison, CO for a bathroom break and another cup of coffee by the river. Despite only being 45 degrees, the sun warmed the air nicely. Birds and squirrels peeped, chirped and scurried around the empty BLM recreation site. Spring is surely in the air.
US-50 through this area is absolute paradise on a motorcycle. Wide 70mph sweepers that you can see cleanly through, and beautiful views of the ranges and formations along the Gunnison river to ponder on the (few) straight bits. Despite the CSP “Saturation Enforcement” in full effect this month, I didn’t see too many lightbars through this section.
I picked up US-550 outside of Montrose and headed towards Ridgway, CO where I’d take county roads all the way into Utah, and eventually Moab. While the road wasn’t as exciting through here, the views were simply incredible. This is the Uncompahgre region, named so for the group of Ute Indians that called this home (before we white folks came and rudely kicked them out).
I had made good time since leaving at noon, but as my Dad’s childhood Sikorsky mug always reminded me, “Good enough is never good enough”. As I made my way up CO-145 outside Placerville, CO, the sun started to set. It was suddenly clear that I’d be riding the last stretch of this day in the dark.
I passed through Norwood, CO just at sunset thinking “Maybe I should play it safe and get a hotel”, but convinced myself that there would be another one in the town ahead, and I should make the most of the daylight I had.
There was none. No visible lodging arrangements through Redvale or Naturita. As the last whispers of sunlight disappeared over the rim of the canyon surrounding the Nsywonger mesa, I started to see shadowy figures on the horizon. DEER.
The remaining cold, dark 50 miles into Moab was a stressful, high-beams only kind of game I played with the roving throngs of deer. Sense on high alert, brake levers covered at all time, squinting through the halogen-lit landscape searching for four-legged hospital visits.
Finally I found a large ranch truck to act as a rabbit, and tucked in behind it for the final 20 miles into Moab. I arrived at the campsite where co-conspirators “Bean” and “Jefe” were already fast asleep in their tents. I hurriedly pitched my tent and unrolled my sleeping bag to join them.
- Today’s mileage: 430
- Number of mountain passes: 5
- Number of deer hits: 0