Monthly Archives: June 2012

Going to the Sun and then to Missoula MT

Glacier National ParkGlacier National Park is one of the country's most spectacular parks and has the distinction of having not only glaciers but also grizzly bears. This park is equally famous, if not more, for one of the great wonders of the CCC during the depression. This is Montana 49, which I believe few ever call the road, which was literally carved out of the side of the mountains and up over the continental divide and is referred to as Going to the Sun Road.

Glacier NationalThe views along the two lane road grab your attention, and we pull off the road frequently to take another great picture. Riding and viewing the grand vistas is not compatible since in several sections there is little if no shoulder. There is the guard rail and then a great view unimpeded by the void on the other side of the guard rail. Every year a herculean effort is made to open the road by June 30 and often even with the effort accompanied by bulldozers and dynamite it is not possible.

The park, especially Logan Pass, which the Going to the Sun Road crosses (along the continental divide) has its own weather system. So we were ready for sun or was just a bit cloudy, but dry.

We eat in West Glacier, a town at the west entrance to the park and head south on scenic ride to Missoula MT past the beautiful Seeley Lake. It has been another beautiful day with great sights.

Three Forks, MT to East Glacier, MT

Glacier LodgeThe weather stays clear and sunny, if not a bit warm. We head out of Three Forks towards Helena, MT, the State Capital. The drive from Three Forks north is a mixture of grand vistas mixed with ranching and farming areas of the eastern slope plains.

We pass through Augusta, MT, the gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness area and on through the ranching and farming community of Choteau, MT where we get a bite to eat. From here we go north into the Black Feet Indian Reservation to East Glacier Park.

Glacier LodgeAfter a great dinner meal, we head over to the historic Glacier lodge, which is across from the train depot - to this day tourists come from east and west on the successor, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, to the Great Northern Railroad's very grand lodge.

To say that this lodge, part of the national park, is grand is an understatement. Massive logs, showing the choker cable marks with their bark intact support the roof in the cavernous lobby with huge fireplaces.

Another interesting form of transportation are the red buses, called Red Jammers, built by the White Motor Company in the 1930's. These historic buses have been totally renovated by the Ford Motor Company from 2000-2002. The vehicles are powered by propane or natural gas.

Glacier TaxiTomorrow comes the experience of traveling the Going to the Sun highway.

Jackson, WY to Three Forks, MT

Grand TetonThe weather continues to be clear and sunny as we head out of Jackson towards West Yellowstone, going through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. It is virtually impossible to take a bad picture in either of these world class settings.

We stop at Coulter Bay for the obligatory view of the bay which makes one heck of a great place to park your boat. Souvenirs are purchased and we are headed north for lunch in West Yellowstone.

Coulter BayFrom West Yellowstone, we go north along the Gallatin River and mountains towards Bozeman, MT from which we go west along I-90 to Three Forks for the night.

Craig, CO to Jackson, WY

DSCN0963Morning found us packing to ride through a stretch of relatively desolate country to one of the most spectacular settings in the world - Jackson, WY.

You get a lot of respect for those who settled this land and especially for those who kept going west into Utah. Other than Rock Springs and Green River along this stretch of Interstate 80, there was not much until we came to the well known Little America - truck and car stop.

On the Road to JacksonAfter Little America we made our way to the very scenic US 89 that follows the Wyoming Range north to Jackson, WY (Jackson Hole is the area). We have gotten used to seeing wildfires on this trip ever since we arrived in Cortez, CO. So the obligatory stop for a picture was in order.

As we rode north, the scenery got more and more beautiful with Mountains to our right. At Afton, WY we pass under the world's largest arch made out of over 3,000 elk antlers.

wildfiresA very unusual sight is that of the Snake River, the same Snake River we crossed over a week and many miles ago previously in Idaho. The Snake River flows out of Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park south to the Palisades Reservoir.

It had been quite a day, we were off our bikes for the day and a nice cold beverage was in order.

evening beers

Independence Pass to Craig, CO

Independence PassWe left Leadville early on another sunny and for a change, a clear day without wildfire smoke. We headed for the second highest paved through road in Colorado, Independence Pass, which in is the Sawatch Mountains on the Continental Divide and 12,095 ft. in altitude.

After crossing the pass we were headed towards the world famous Aspen, CO - winter playground of the rich and famous. The city, founded in 1879 has a population in excess of approximately 8,000 and sits at 8,000 ft. in elevation.

Posing at the PassThe traffic was heavy and we rode through as we had a lunch appointment in Rifle, CO. At Glenwood Springs, we turned west on I-70. The ride to Rifle was uneventful, but there is going west, at the South Canyon exit, an opporunity to look to the right at the face of Storm King Mountain where in 1994, 14 Prineville, Oregon U.S. Forest Service Hot Shot firefighter lost their lives fighting the Storm King Mountain fire. There is a trail that follows that taken by the firefighters.

We arrived in Rifle for a lunch with one of Bill's family - just right a big salad and bowl of fruit. As the temperature had risen considerably, everyone welcomed the unheated meal.

From Rifle we headed north to our stop for the night in Craig, CO. Craig is well know for its large elk herd and hunting opportunities. It is a city of over 10,000 residents. Coal mining and ranching comprise much of the industry in this area along with the recent exploration and extraction of petroleum.

South Fork, CO around the Fires to Leadville, CO

wildfireToday we awoke to a clear sunny day along the Rio Grande. After breakfast we headed north along the Rio Grande River past its headwaters to Lake City through beautiful high plain ranching country.

The ride through the high plateau to Lake City was good - few cars and good road. After Lake City, we made our way up to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. At Gunnison, we altered our our route to Leadville to avoid the wildfires that seemed to be burning everywhere.

ColoradoA wonderful aspect of Colorado is that an alternate route is just trading good scenery for more good scenery.

Leadville is an old mining town where there had been found, along with other types of ore rich lodes of silver. Today Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States at 10,152 feet in altitude. The town is sometimes referred to as the two mile city. As to how the town got the name Leadville instead of Silverville was that the two metal often are intermixed or accompany each other. Not too bad of a name since much lead flew through the air in what was a rowdy town in its boom era.

Leadville was our destination for the night, so after dinner everyone called it a day.

San Juan Skyway – All American By-Way

DSC01373The tour group left the motel early, starting the San Juan Skyway ride that would head up towards Ridgway and then down to Durango.

First order of the day was breakfast, which was a short ride into the San Juan Mountains to the mining town of Rico.  It is interesting to note that most old and small mountain towns were usually related to mining.  It is said that the '49's on their way overland to California for its gold rush walked over in Colorado more gold than they ever found in California.

As happens in the local restaurants, you usually get some color with breakfast, and we were entertain- ed by the waitress/owner/cook describing a very party hardy birthday celebration the night before, from which she and the rest of the town were recovering.


Breakfast in Rico, CO

Breakfast in Rico, CO

We learned she could definitely multitask by nursing her's and others' hangovers while fixing a very good and hearty breakfast.

It was a beautiful day in the mountains, clear and crisp...... so far we were avoiding the smoke from the wildfires fires that were essentially all over the state.

The riding through the San Juan Mountains was quite spectacular, especially around Telluride, but as beautiful as the views were, we all paid attention to the road which was fun to ride, but required one's complete attention.

Little smokey?

Little smokey?

At the town of Silverton, our luck on avoiding the smoke plum ran out, but before we arrived in Silverton we rode through Ouray, a town with few level spots, but a lot of beautiful views and a spectacular road running out of the town with dramatic views, and one very twisty, but fun mountain road.

By the time we arrived in Durango, which is a region center for commerce and transportation, the sky had cleared and it was getting fairly warm.

The ride from Durango to Southfork, CO was very scenic with pastoral country broken by a moutnain pass with grand vistas of valleys and the San Juan Mountains.

We were very much looking forward to a beer along sitting along the Rio Grande in South Fork which is but a few miles from the headwaters of the Rio Grande.


We closed the day with drinks and a good southwest style dinner along the banks of the Rio Grande with a beautiful sunset.

It was was a day of grand sights, good roads, food and company.

George, along with us, was able to visit with his mother-in-law, have a beer along the Rio Grande and enjoy a good home cooked meal.

Post Script Long Ride – Big Surprise

Friday, June 22, 2012, was a beautiful and fun ride through beautiful country for the tour group, and in Boise, Idaho another ride was unfolding - the motorcycle was fixed and good to go by 2:30 PM, and go it did with the goal of making Cortez, Co before the tour left for South Fork, Colorado, and Cortez was 700 miles away. Fortunately the day was, if not the longest in terms of sunlight, darn close.

Thankful for good speed limits (75 mph) and a large fuel tank ( approx. 8 gallons) and only 3 fuel/rest stops, Bob arrived in Cortez at the motel at 3:30 AM on June 23, - not too bad, just 13 hours.  We would not have tried anything similar with a tour group, as night riding is rare, unplanned and avoided.

After three tours and two breakdowns, future tours would have a chase vehicle and trailer with a spare bike.

Ride to Cortez, CO


Off early to Monument Valley, and the riders dropped down into Arizona and the drive through the famous and the many times filmed for western movies landscape known as Monument Valley. Then it was on to four corners, the intersection of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico & Arizona, and true to its name, one can stand in all four states simultaneously, which all the group did. Then off to Mesa Verde National Park, the site of the famous cliff dwellings.

Mexican Hat, UT

Mexican HatDSCN1405

The trip through the Grand Staircase and Capital Reef National Park were nothing short of spectacular.  The views were as good or better than Bryce National Park in several of the groups' opinion.

As the group rode SR 95 to Blanding, UT, the passed Lake Powell, where members could stand on a precipice overlooking Lake Powell, which is a very large reservoir created by Glen Canyon Dam.


Then it was south to Mexican Hat,UT, for a drink, dinner and a good night's sleep. That night's stay was at an inn built into the rocks overlooking the San Juan River. Tomorrow would be onto Cortez by way of Monument Valley, Four Corners and Mesa Verde National Park.