The Curecanti Loop From Durango
In last week's letter I reported on the first 2 days of our trip to Durango
and our ride around the San Juan Parkway Scenic Byway. Or as I
have always called it, "The Durango Loop". If you missed last week's letter, you can Click Here to catch up. You
can also view 181 of the most beautiful pictures
that I have posted. Since last week, I put together a little 4 minute photo slide show of those
pictures to the tune of "Rocky Mountain High". Click Here to view.
Since I still had not had my fill of riding on the Million Dollar Highway, on day 3 of our trip, we decided to head North again from Durango Mountain Ski Resort through Silverton and Ouray on our way to the Blue Mesa Reservoir in the Curecanti National Recreation Area, Colorado's largest body of water. The reservoir, formed by damming the Gunnison River is located between Montrose and Gunnison at an elevation of over 7500 feet. We had read that we would be riding adjacent to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and experiencing beautiful mesas, deep narrow canyons and fjord like lakes as we meandered our way around the forest and the terrain created by millions of years of erosion from the Gunnison River.
Rather than backtracking roads we decided to make a 140 mile loop out of this trip. We continued North of Montrose to Delta and Hotchkiss to come in from the North side through the Gunnison National Forest, across the dam and then back to Montrose. As with any motorcycle ride, when you are traveling to get to your chosen destination, it can sometimes not be as exciting as you would like. That was the case here as we traveled 25 miles of the flat part of Western Colorado from Montrose to Delta. But after riding from Silverton to Ouray, what could compare?
After we made the turn East the terrain got more interesting riding through farm land and dropping into the Gunnison National Forest to start our ascent to 9500 feet and an incredible view of Western Colorado. The information that we read was correct as we rode through 40 miles of incredible twisties through the forest adjacent to the deep canyon walls of the Gunnison River on our way to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Every corner presented a new look at the area that almost made it hard to keep your eyes on the road. What a memorable ride!
As with most rides, a lot times there are subplots to go along with the beauty of the route that you are riding. It can be a mechanical failure, weather or running low on gas. For some reason, the latter seems to have worked its' way into the last couple of rides that I have taken. You would think that something as simple as keeping gas in your tank wouldn't be that tough. But, If you are like me and just want to ride, stopping for gas is just a big waste of daylight. So with that mindset and underestimating the availability of potential gas stations in the miles ahead, I sometimes tend to push it to the limit. In this particular case there was some good news and some bad news. The good news was that it wasn't me that was running low on gas in the Road Glide. The bad news is that it was Mrs. C. on her thirsty Vrod, mostly due to the fact that I elected to pass on the last gas station for the next 50 miles. Hmmm.....How do you think that decision went over guys?
At the last overlook stop I asked her how much farther she could make it on her tank of gas. She responded that she probably should have run out 10 miles ago. Not the answer I was looking for. So I checked the GPS to find that there was a gas station 20 miles away as the crow flies. The problem was, we would have to cross a 1000 foot gorge, a mountain and a lake to get there in a straight line. Otherwise, it was going to be a 30 mile ride. At this point, all I could hope for was a miracle or a good divorce attorney. Fortunately, I got the miracle. As we were nearing the lake, I spotted a sign that said GAS, 3 miles, with an arrow pointing to the left. I'm thinking my prayers had been answered. (Click on the links to get the pictures for this word story)
So I turned on this patch of asphalt that soon turned into a gravel road next to the lake. My euphoria is now being quickly deflated as I am not seeing anything that looks like a gas station on the horizon. After about 3 miles I see what looks like a farm house or a general store on the right side of the road that was in fact Ferro's Trading Post. I pull up to the front and see a sign that says propane gas, but I see no pumps for gasoline. I said to Dan, "the sign said gas, I hope it didn't mean propane gas". Off to my right I hear an old man belt out, "We got gas!" I responded, really? I don't see the pumps. He said, "we ain't got no pumps, it's down there in the tank". Yep! My oasis was a silver tank on stilts full of the petroleum that I needed to keep me out of the dog house and back into the good graces with Mrs. C.
So we take the bikes down there, the owner John climbs up on the ladder to open the flow to the hose and gives Mrs. C. the gas she needs to both get her back to civilization and get me back in the family. As it turns out, John goes to town once per week and gets gas in 5 gallon cans, climbs up the ladder and pours it into the tank to help bail out travelers that are in dire need of gas and headed for a week of abstinence if they don't find any. And all of that for only $4.00 per gallon. He should learn to negotiate, I would have easily paid $10 per gallon for it at that point. So as we hung around talking to John, eating some ice cream bars and looking at antiques, we found out that True Grit with John Wayne was shot near there and John was in the movie. Very nice old guy with lots of stories.
As always, I tend to look at each day with the glass half full, and not half empty. Without a few little hiccups here and there, you might miss some interesting detours along the way. If Mrs. C. hadn't been running out of gas, we would have never met John, seen his old General Store and experienced getting gas this way. I couldn't help be reminded of needing gas in the bottom of King's Canyon in California. Here is what that looked like. The rest of the day was uneventful as we made our back to Montrose, topped off with gas and then back across the beautiful Million Dollar Highway for my third time in 2 days. What a treat.
Monday morning we pulled out at 7am in 42 degree weather from the ski resort for our 430 mile ride home. The weather was beautiful and we were making good time until another one of those little issues that I mentioned above reared its ugly head. This time it was a mechanical problem. About half way between Kayenta and Tuba City, my bike decides to eject the spark plug from the front cylinder. Yep, as in blow it out of the head. If you have ever been between Kayenta and Tuba City, you know there is absolutely nothing out there including cell phone service. We knew Scott Pasmore was only a few miles ahead of us with his motorhome and trailer, but had no way to contact him. Woody tried to keep the plug in by wrapping foil around it, but that didn't work either.
So I had no choice but to ride it on one cylinder, doing a top speed of 60 mph wide open, spitting oil, noise and gas for the next 120 miles to Flagstaff where I had finally gotten hold of Scott to wait for me there. The last 30 miles up the hill to Flagstaff went at a rate of about 45 mph. I told my group that was the only time I would ride from Kayenta to Flagstaff wide open. But back to the glass being half full, I was really glad I was able to get it started and ride it back to civilization. It would have been a long day otherwise. I also learned to carry a set of tie downs in my bags as there was a Cyclerides.com reader who offered to put it on the trailer in Tuba City to take me home. Thanks to them for the offer.
Click Here for the Photos
Click Here For the Map
http://www.nps.gov/cure . Curecanti Recreation Area.
http://www.sangres.com/forest/forestgunnison.htm. Gunnison National Forest.
http://www.nps.gov/blca . Black Canyon of the Gunnison Park. A good detour if you are in the area.