February 26, 2012
Every week, a large group of people from all over the world get together and post Shadow Shots. Used to be called Shadow Shot Sunday and was coming from a great blogger named tracy in Australia. Since I haven't been around Shadow Shot Sunday in over three months, something has changed.
I see many of the same folks are still doing Shadow Shots on Sunday, but they have a new blog address and new hosts. You can see the Shadow Shots for this week and find out how to participate at Shadow Shot Sunday 2 Go ahead, take a look. It's fun!
In the meantime, here is my submission for Sunday, February 26, 2012. (We sometimes post on Saturday here in the USA because it's already Sunday in Australia.)
|Yours truly on his first open wheeled contraption|
Back some time ago, maybe after cave wall drawings and the typewriter, there came a device at the beginning of the computer era called the word processor. I had one of these manufactured by a company called Brother. I think they make sewing machines too. It looked like a typewriter and had the added high tech, at the time, convenience of a space for a floppy disc to save the projects you were working on.
After some time, I had accumulated many of these floppy discs, and like the reel to reel tape recorders and movie cameras of that era and the time before it, I had a box full of unreadable files because of the simple fact that the apparatus used to create them had gone the way of the dinosaur.
Lo and behold, I did get to read and subsequently print out the contents of some of these floppy thingies. And to my surprise, I came across some of my earliest writings.
The piece I’m going to reveal to you today is from a time when I was trying to pitch articles to motorcycle magazines. I was published once. That story was posted on Round Circle in January of 2011. This one was written sometime in 1993.
I called this story The Perfect Road, as it was a travel piece about a journey through the Southwestern Colorado high desert. This trip on these series of roadways is still one of the most beautiful rides I know of.
By the way, I pitched this story to a magazine way back then. I did receive a letter from the publisher. They loved the story, and told me to add photos to it complete with pictures of motorcycles. I did take some great landscape and scenery shots, but no motorcycles. This one never got published in a magazine, but I’ll publish it here today on my blog.
Here is the travelogue article, The Perfect Road
Since moving to Western Colorado from the Northern reaches of Minnesota in the Spring of 1993, I have come to appreciate many things about the Southwest. The obvious difference in weather, for one, allows me to ride my motorcycle longer than the Midwestern clime. And the change in scenery makes the adventuresome spirit come alive within me. There seems to be more to pay attention to when there are mountains, vast open spaces, buttes, mesas and long lonely roads than there is in some other parts of the country.
It was on one of these exploring-new-territory adventures that I happened upon “The Perfect Road”. It is located in extreme Western Colorado. In fact, sometimes you wander into Utah while exploring off here and there along the way.
It’s one of those roads where you can get it all. Climbs, curves, canyons, valleys, river bluffs, even dirt and gravel if you want it. It starts from the central grand valley at Grand Junction. Here is where the Gunnison and Colorado rivers meet. It runs South along numerous river canyons, upland plateaus and some of the nicest Wisconsinlike farm country I’ve ever seen anywhere besides Wisconsin.
The main thrust of this 250 mile or so loop is Colorado State Highway 141. An easy cruisin’ two lane by-way custom made for a motorcycle. Long sweeping curves, easy grades, beautiful scenery, virtually no traffic and just enough places to pull over to grab a cool drink or soak up the distinction of this awesome country.
This is the kind of road you think of when you read books about faraway adventure or when you daydream to another place because your having a bad day.
My ride started in Grand Junction, Colorado. Only 35 miles away from the Utah border on Interstate 70. You can find 141 off the business loop at the East end of the area in Clifton. Colorado 141 is designated as a scenic byway entitled The Unaweep Tabegauche, ( pronounced: ta’b-a-wash). The Ute Indians, the original native inhabitants of this area , referred to it as such. Roughly translated, it means river with two ends in a sunny place. This is one of those times when the scenic designation does not do justice to the magnificent and varied textures of this incredible landscape.
Serenely residential for the first mile or two, the road quickly dives into the Grand Valley at the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains. There, it crosses US Highway 50 with a short jog to the South. Then, within a mile, you start a slow gradual climb through rocky terrain with easily negotiated curves leading to a good 1000 foot or so rise in elevation. This plateau is dotted with ranches and an occasional country home.
The fork of West Creek, or East Creek depending on whether you are East or West of the Unaweep divide, will run along with you the 48 miles to Gateway.
In Gateway, you get your first civilized chance to stop at the Gateway Store. It’s a small don’t blink or you’ll miss it roadside gas station, store and cafe. The owner likes to talk with travelers and seems to have plenty of time between customers. This highway has yet to be discovered by throngs of Summertime tourists and travelers.
Just beyond Gateway is access to the Uncompaghre National Forest and the Uncompaghre plateau. This is another of those Ute Indian words and it means “red”. It fits the color of the terrain in these parts.
Mostly hikers and campers use the trails and enter from the Northeast of the plateau off of US Highway 50 near Delta or Montrose, Colorado. We’ll keep this access to miles of forest roads a secret for now if you don’t mind. After a tour through part of the National Forest, we’re back on Colorado 141.
If you start in the morning, you’ll find the air is cool and clear here as well as at other higher elevations throughout this ride, so be prepared. It’s after this stretch of green grass valleys and cool water the terrain drastically changes to tall red rock cliffs that jut from the valley floor of the Delores River for the next 30 miles. No power lines or signs of inhabitants in this narrow canyon. Only rock and water and the road, sweeping left and right with every turn, bringing you another vista unrivaled from the one before it.
These red cliffs look like you are riding through a cut made by a giant dull-bladed chainsaw being forced unto a piece of ancient hard solid red oak. The umber cliff walls almost look burnt from the power of the water that pushed by here millenium ago, the harsh high desert sun giving it its dark patina.
From the canyon unfolds the old semi-deserted mining area of Uravan. I’m not sure what, if anything, is still going on at Uravan, but there is little activity except the remains of the uranium mining which took place here some time ago.
The Dolores River, at your side like a faithful companion, suddenly seems to drop below you and you find yourself riding on a two lane ledge with the red rock rising high above you. No switchbacks here though. The curves are still sweeping you onward like the efficient arc of an old corn broom. Every stroke smoothly carries you back and forth through this fantastic canyon to the town of Naturita.
Naturita has a post office and signs of the usual day-to-day life of arcane existence. Far away from any other town or city, alone but not lonely with a few choices for food and/or beverage refreshment.
A good 70 miles into your ride, Naturita has the necessary amenities for travelers if you need them. From there, the road continues and the first major choice since you started appears from the right.
Colorado 141 breaks away to the South towards Slick Rock and Dove Creek. Route 145 picks up the slack as you continue Southeast towards Norwood. If you choose the turn-off for Dove Creek, you’ll find it a straight shot into Cortez and US Highway Route 666. This will give you access to four corners where four states boundaries touch in one spot. This is a very sacred place to the Native peoples of the area.
There are vendors here with culture and history unfolding before you. I strongly suggest seeing this site, but taking the definitely more scenic route via Colorado 145 to get there.
On the way to Norwood on 145, you arrive all of a sudden to an area that will make you feel as if you space warped to the gently rolling farmland of the Midwest. You’d swear you were somewhere in Wisconsin except for the fact that there are no silos and far off in the distance in every direction, a mountain range can be seen. Each with some of the twelve and thirteen thousand foot snow capped peaks exposing themselves.
Norwood is another nice place to stop, not to mention the numerous pull-offs you’ll encounter along your journey. The Maverick Cafe, a local hangout, may be the only place open on a Sunday morning. The town boasts the usual farm and ranch community shopping with a general store and a motel. You can gas up here if you like, the next stop is 20 or so miles away and hasn’t much to offer.
Just beyond Norwood, it seems as if the earth opens up to swallow you as you reach the San Miguel River valley. With sunlight guiding you down about 1000 feet in elevation along the very gently winding river canyon roadway, you feel like you can reach out and touch heaven.
Again, you’ll find no hairpin curves here, just the long steady descent to the floor of the valley in time to meet your traveling river companion again to escort you onward. Many places to pull over, shut off the motor and sense nature all around you.
Colorado 62 meets and ends at Colorado 145 near Placerville and takes you to the Dallas reservoir. There are camping facilities there, another 20 miles North. You can choose more luxurious accommodations as well as a variety of ethnic and american food by staying on 145 to Telluride.
Telluride is at the end of a narrow valley three miles off of 145 and is well marked. It is a destination for many in all seasons. The road into Telluride dead ends in this valley at the feet of a number of huge peaks. You’ll find Bridal Falls cascading out of the mountains year round.
Winter has the great skiing, but Summertime brings on the tourists in numbers, especially for festivals which seem to be held every week-end. They even celebrate a “No Festival” in August by proclaiming the town acknowledges the fact that there is no “official” celebration.
|Mrs. Spadoman looks good with the old bike!|
Motels and B&B’s are ample, but if you think you’ll be staying on a week-end, call in advance for reservations. You’ll enjoy victorian homes lining the narrow streets in this proclaimed National Historic village. The local color here is not unlike commercial and residential districts of a larger city near or around a major college or university.
Your trek can continue now on 145 Southwest to Cortez and four corners through the San Juan National Forest. The beauty of this area is unsurpassed anywhere as you cruise among the mountain giants. You can back track from four corners, or consult local maps for alternatives back to Grand Junction via Utah and the mountain bike capital of Moab.
If you decide to skip four corners and head back to Grand Junction, here is the perfect opportunity. Ten miles before Cortez, US Highway 160 passes through Delores. Take this road East to Durango, Colorado and catch US Highway 550 North to meet up to US Highway 50 in Montrose. Follow 50 North back to Grand Junction.
This is another scenic byway and is entitled the San Juan Skyway. The raw beauty of this area North of Durango to Ouray is indescribable. A part of it from Silverton to Ouray, the Red Mountain Pass, is dubbed the million dollar highway. The name comes from the legend of the gold mining days. It is said that the rock used for the roadbed is full of gold dust, a million dollars worth.
Here, you find some switchbacks as well as more traffic than you’ve been used to if you travel on weekends. But there are ample opportunities to pull over and soak it all in.
I find the vivid memory of these sights is better than using a camera. Ouray has the definitive respite for weary two wheel voyageurs. Ouray Hot Springs. These springs bubble naturally out of the mountains and create pools of soothing hot mineral springs. When you dip into one of these pools, you will soak away the weariness from the long hours on the road, enabling you to start fresh again the next day. Looking into the mountains at Ouray is as though you are staring at a larger than life mural that has been painted by one of the old masters.
|My dad on my Uncle Louie's 1948 Harley Davidson|
Montrose, a good sized city of over 25,000, will have everything you need to spend another night on the road if you want to. You may want to do the side trip East to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River instead of the last 60 miles back to Grand Junction on Highway 50.
|Taking a break on Douglas Pass in Colorado, 1993|
There is an option here of grabbing a local Forest Service map and follow the road less travelled and weave your way back to Grand Junction via Colorado 92 and 65 through the Grand Mesa, the largest flat topped mountain in the world. The 53 square miles that compose the Grand Mesa National Forest is dotted with lakes, over 200 of them, and pine forests that fill the air with freshness every mile of the way, all at near 10,000 feet above sea level.
Coming down off the Mesa on Interstate 70, it’s a scant 10 miles back to Grand Junction to the West. You’ll feel so refreshed after riding the Mesa that you just might turn off on 141 and start this fabulous ride over again!