It didn’t start off as the “Bald Tire Tour”. Originally it was just a loose plan around a music show at Virginia City, MT and some dual sport riding around the Gravelly Range, also in Montana. My plan was to leave in the morning on a Thursday, and be back home to work on Tuesday. My proposed route was a total of 1600 miles round trip, taking me through backcountry byways, county and forest service roads.
I set off shortly after 9:00am and made my way out of the city and the Front Range. Snaked out of Woodland Park with traffic, and made my way towards Independence Pass. Unfortunately, the USA Pro Cycling event was taking place over the pass, and the entire road was shut down to traffic. Instead, I had to go up and around via the Highway.
Once I got to Newcastle, CO, I happily jumped off the highway, fueled up, and headed off for unknown forest service roads to ride the 60-70 some miles into Craig, CO via the dirt. Things started out great, and deteriorated as I ran into afternoon showers which made the road a mucky, slippery mess. The Michelin Anakee 2 tires I was running work very well on and off road, as long as there is no moisture. Rather than waiting for the road to dry, I pushed on, hoping I’d break out of the storm and find dry roads. 45 minutes later I did, and found a fast, smooth dirt road all to myself without seeing another vehicle for hours.
My off-road bypass put me just south of Craig, CO. I fueled up and stocked up on some provisions at a (very) busy gas station, and asked around about camping opportunities. Not surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be many options in town. Plenty of places to park and RV and hook up for that “authentic” experience, but no place to set up a tent.
I rode east out of town for about 15 miles before I saw a sign marking a swarth of BLM land for the Yampa River Valley. I grabbed a handful of front binders on the GS, stabbed the turn indicator, and set off to find a camp site.
Some folks enjoy company when they camp. Neighbors and new people to meet and share stories with. I have always preferred solitude with nature. This beautiful spot just off the BLM access road gave me just that. With most BLM and other public lands, “dispersed camping” is the name of the game. The rules are simple; Leave it as you found it. Its important to be sure that you are not on private land; nobody wants to be rousted out of their tent with a shotgun, by an irate rancher at 2:00 am.
With a quick meal of freeze-dried chili, some hot Tang, I slowly watched the sun set over the river valley while the birds and the bugs chirped and ratcheted each other into a low din. No yelling and screaming from children running around the campground. No “thump-thump-thump” of subwoofers in RV’s going off while folks watch movies. It wasn’t hard to fall asleep.