Saturday, July 8 – Lafayette to Buena Vista
As I have mentioned repeatedly, I have been intending to ride my motorcycle from Lafayette to Buena Vista and back. Well, now you don’t have to hear me blathering on about that, because I just did it last weekend!
I loaded my leather saddle bags and strapped a pack to the back of the bike with bungee cords. As an extra precaution, I wore a bright yellow vest over my mesh motorcycle jacket, to make me extra-visible.
Saturday I left Lafayette about 9:15 a.m. When I was only a couple of miles from my house, I had to stop because my left mirror was flapping again! I dug out my wrench and tightened down the bolt as tightly as I could. I am not sure why this loosens and what to do to keep it tight, but I’ll keep my wrench handy!
I rode the route I had done before out to Conifer. I took Highway 93 south to Golden, then Heritage road to Hogback Road south to Morrison. From Morrison, it’s a short jog south to US 285. Then it was up Turkey Creek Canyon, where I stopped in Conifer to top off the gas, about 50 miles from home.
I continued southwest on 285, enjoying the pleasant day. The highway passes by woods and rocky hills and connects several small communities along its corridor.
A few miles north of Bailey, the road passes down Crow Hill, a steep hill with sweeping curves. The small town of Bailey is at the foot of the hill, and at this point 285 heads northwest.
This part of the highway is particularly beautiful, as it navigates through a series of long, narrow valleys. At the west end is the “Long Meadow Ranch,” with a beautiful and peaceful green, grassy meadow, having a river running along one side of it and trees around the edges.
From Grant, the highway starts heading southwest and climbing in elevation until it reaches the 10,000-foot summit of Kenosha Pass.
When you round the bend after the summit, the broad expanse of South Park is below. South Park is a high-altitude “basin” bordered by snow-capped peaks. There are a few cow pastures and grasses grow along the creeks, but the rest of the landscape is covered with sagebrush and short scrub.
South Park is notorious for being windy a good bit of the time, and I wasn’t looking forward to experiencing this on the bike!
The wind hit me as soon as I reached the valley floor, buffeting my head, as I made my way through Jefferson, a village a couple of miles from the foot of Kenosha Pass.
This first half of South Park has a lot of wide open spaces with few nearby hills to break the wind. As I approached Red Hill Pass, the wind became less of a problem.
I knew when I reached Red Hill that I was almost to Fairplay, which lies about 3 miles southwest of the pass.
I stopped in Fairplay, topped off the gas tank again and got a snack. Only 35 miles to Buena Vista! From Fairplay, the highway heads due south.
At Antero Junction, US 285 joins with Highway 24, and then heads up Trout Creek Pass. I was happy to start the short climb up the pass, as this carried me off the windy plain of South Park. The road is pleasantly twisty as it makes its way into Chaffee County.
One day and 140 miles down!
Sunday, July 9 – Monarch Pass and Gunnison
My brother Hilary and I decided, since I was going to be in Buena Vista with my motorcycle, that we ought to do a ride together! He suggested we ride over Monarch Pass to Gunnison for lunch, which we did on Sunday, July 9.
We left Buena Vista about 10:00 a.m., riding about 25 miles south to Poncha Springs. From there, we headed west towards Monarch Pass, midway between Buena Vista and Gunnison.
The road was level for a while, passing farms and trees, but soon began climbing. The incline wasn’t so extreme that I needed to shift down from fifth gear, and the curves were moderate.
We reached the summit of Monarch Pass, which is at 11,312 feet above sea level! The surrounding mountains were breathtaking:
After a break, we rode down the other side, around some tight curves and reached the base of the pass. It was then about 30 miles to Gunnison. The land we rode through had moderate hills and was covered with sagebrush. The air smelled of spicy sage and green grass.
We had lunch and got gas in Gunnison before riding back the way we came to return to Buena Vista. We discovered my bike was getting lower gas mileage than my brother’s bike. This may be due to my smaller 650cc engine needing to work harder to maintain highway speeds. His bike is an 1100cc.
The west side of Monarch Pass is steeper than the east side, and I found I had to shift down to fourth gear and putt along at 45 miles per hour.
Here I am at the summit on the way back:
When we stopped to pick up some groceries in Salida, Hilary noticed that one of the bolts holding on my exhaust pipes had nearly worked its way loose! We suspect the technician who worked on my bike did not secure it very well, as it would not have done that on its own. So, there we were, in a hot parking lot, with Hilary tightening the bolt in close proximity to the scalding hot pipes! He managed to get it secure, and we were happy to get back on the highway and cool off.
We had a nice ride back to Buena Vista. Another 160 miles down!
Monday, July 10 – Buena Vista to Lafayette
I left Buena Vista Monday morning about 10:30. The 35-mile trip to Fairplay was uneventful except for having to swerve around a big chunk of retread that had come off someone’s tire. Shortly before arriving in Fairplay, I saw a skinny black twisted thing that looked like wire wedged around my fork. I hoped that this wasn’t part of my bike!
I stopped in Fairplay and found that the thing in my fork was just a small piece of the retread that I had picked up. I pulled it out of the fork and got going again.
I then rode up and over Red Hill Pass and worked my way back north towards Jefferson near the foot of Kenosha Pass. Wild roses lined the road, filling the air with their lovely scent.
Outside Jefferson, I was delighted to see a huge meadow filled with tiny yellow flowers and purple clover on a field of green. All along this stretch of roadway, the sweet smell of clover was present.
I decided to stop in Bailey for gas. This is about the midpoint of the whole ride, 70 miles from Buena Vista.
After summiting Crow Hill, I rode back along 285 towards Conifer. As I approached Conifer, I found that rain had recently fallen, and the temperature dropped.
I contemplated putting on another layer and stopped in Conifer for coffee. While I sat at the coffee shop, the sun came out.
I got home to Lafayette in the mid-afternoon.
Another 140 miles!
Total mileage for the whole trip: 440!
I plan to do some more rides this summer, including the whole length of the Peak-to-Peak Highway from Black Hawk to Estes Park.
I will also be going on a women’s motorcycle group ride in August. This will help me see if I would like to do other events with this group, which meets monthly. Also, it will give me experience riding in a group. I feel that I will generally prefer riding solo or with one or two other people, but I have to at least try this!
I have caught the motorcycle touring bug! For touring, I need a bike with a bigger engine, with more power for hills and greater comfort for long trips. I am reading online reviews of bikes and deciding what I want.
My goal is to sell my 650cc and get a bigger used bike (1100cc or 1300cc) by the end of the year. The Yamaha V-Star 650 has been a great entry-level motorcycle!