COLORADO TRIP UPDATE- AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, the trip was an amazing trip, and although it did not go as planned (outlined) from the original post, it was nothing short of amazing. I ended up going alone but did end up meeting another GS guy from Canada in SIlverton who unfortunately did not have knobby tires, so he rented a side by side and accompanied me along the Alpine loop.
So, there were so many details and talking points that I'm unable to put it all on this post, so I'll condense down a little. I'll also point out a few technical details as well for anyone new to GS bikes and or new to this type of riding.
Something about me to take into consideration for help in understand my reasoning on somethings noted below.
1. I'm Technically diabetic (type 2) but fortunate to manage my numbers to pre-diabetic / normal levels through exercise and diet. However I've noticed unusual spikes (nothing medically critical) at weird times while riding, either while being a little too cold, or when meal times are missed or schedule changed. As I understand, it's called elevated glucose due to "fight or flight" mode.
2. I'm normally a people person and although I've traveled alone on business for years, this was the first time going alone for this long doing something this extreme, and I actually began to second guess the trip on the 2nd day. Let's just say that there were a few too many comments about why I shouldn't take the trip vs encouragement on taking the trip, so it sort of played a little mind game on me the first 2 days. Prayer, Pandora, Sena 20SEVO, and some cool people that I started to meet at the end of the 2nd day helped
So here we go........
1. Go to 4 corners New Mexico, take a picture. (DID NOT HAPPEN)
2. jump on the BDR to Silverton. (DID NOT HAPPEN)
3. Run a pass or two and work my way on the BDR north for a day or so, then start back home. (DID NOT HAPPEN- Kinda)
4. Camp each night. (DID NOT HAPPEN)
What actually happened:
I left Thursday Sept. 12th at 3pm with the plan of arriving at 4 corners New Mexico by Saturday to Start the BDR on Sunday morning. Traffic hang up in downtown ATL and again on I 20 through Douglasville set me back the first day. The next day started off good, but the temperatures quickly soared to 95+ so I decided to stop every hour and a half to soak my vented jacket, vented shirt, and vented pants to allow for evaporative cooling. This actually worked extremely well and combined with my hydration pack the heat really did not bother me at all. Concerned about my glucose numbers I was constantly monitoring myself at every break in addition to snacking and drinking which hurt my actual travel time. With that in mind, i decided not to camp and simply stay at hotels along the way to avoid the delay of setting up and taking down camp. Plus it was just to easy to travel until 6 or 7 pm and just pull in somewhere with enough time to eat at my bodies time (eastern time ) to keep from having unusual spikes. A few times I was a little too high to eat, so I had to jog for half an hour in order to eat.
Day 2.5 started off well in that I had a great nights sleep, and I met some great people the evening before at dinner and while fueling up. I never get tired of feeling like a celebrity when I pull in somewhere on this or my other bike as curious on lookers admire and or spark a conversation about the bike or my trip. Truly some amazing folks in this world. This positive vibe had a hand in keeping me motivated.
I enjoy road travel so the grind of the interstate did not affect me. There was plenty to see, and once I approached Arkansas, the hilly scenery gave me pleasant thoughts of what was in store for me ahead. (TECHNICAL NOTE- my bike is a 2013 GSA 90th anniversary edition. As a 5'6 rider with 30" inseam, my lowered stock height bike with lowered seargent seat was comfortable in the lower notch with ESA in one helmet and one bag mode. However, the bend in the leg since I opted not to install lowered pegs to match the seat only allowed me to run about 2 solid hours before having to stand and or stop. So my technique in order to save time evolved into my normal alternate position movement while riding during the first hour, then I'd pull into a rest stop standing and perform slow speed figure 8's along with side to side bike shifting for 5 minutes, then I'd hit the road again for another hour. Additionally I'd change suspension to 2 helmets in comfort mode and or raise the seat to the second notch.)
Day 3 - 3.5 was a great ride. Working my way across Oklahoma, and Texas was nice. Scenery was great, the temps were still warm, but at least it was less than 95. Windmills, plains, farm lands, distant towns all dotted the landscape along the way. I should also note that the density of traffic was light the entire way. As I departed the Amarillo area this is where it all changed. As I approached the New Mexico border the temps became nice instantly, but the rain started and continued. The weather app and radar cast a shadow on my 4 corners plan and with the assumption that the lower BDR portion of the trail would be wet, I changed plans to avoid the risk of being on that part of the trail alone and the possibility of not being able to pick up the bike if I went down. Additionally, I was concerned that the time difference (affecting my meals vs body time) and cooler weather would have an effect on my glucose numbers so changing plans seemed to be the better option. So I decided to head straight to Silverton Colorado and use this as a base camp.
Passing through Albuquerque and turning on to Hwy 550, the trip really took a turn for the better despite the rain. The low clouds cooler temps and minimal traffic created some amazing views of the scenery. I soon passed the continental divide at a little over 7300 ft and the excitement continued to build. This is a really great stretch of road heading to the Colorado border.
Then, after a couple of hours the moment I was waiting for finally happened. Seeing the "Welcome to colorful Colorado" sign was a milestone. I yelled "alright" in my helmet and praised the Lord for getting this far. At this point I knew I wasn't far from Silverton so after a quick pic in front of the sign I quickly hit the road.
The approach into Silverton was also nothing short of amazing. The town is already at 9318 ft elevation so coming over the pass and down into the city was pretty interesting. Technically at this point you're already on a portion of the million dollar highway so the minimal amount of guard rails along the road coupled with 500 to 800 ft drop off areas in the rain and clouds really made for an exciting ride.
Upon arrival I went to the first campground and parked. As soon as I stepped off the bike it hit me (Note- at this time I didn't know that the town was 9300 ft above sea level), three steps forward and out of breath, my legs felt weak and my stomach felt weird. The 25 foot walk to the campground office seemed to take 30 minutes then upon entry to the office, the heat was unbearable making me even more uncomfortable. At this point I knew setting up a tent was out of the question so I opted for a small cabin type room. I'll shorten this part of the story up by simply stating - it took 50 minutes to unload my bike 10ft in front of my cabin. I slowly rode my bike to a store 200 ft in front of the campground to purchase food, water, and 2 cans of the Boost oxygen bottles. I sat in my cabin for several hours while my body went through weird changes. Concerned about my glucose, I checked frequently and stayed aware of my condition for many hours. Eventually I rode the bike around the town during breaks in the rain as that didn't seem to bother me. In fact being on the bike felt great, it was only when I stepped off the bike and started walking that I felt the weird stuff. After reading a couple of articles about not laying down at high elevations and repeated story after story about head issues and everything else associated with the dangers of elevation sickness I almost reached a point to where I was going to leave my things and take a taxi or something down to the next town at 7300 ft elevation, but around 8pm Sunday evening I actually felt alright, even just walking around slowly. It appeared that the boost shots of oxygen helped me transition a little better so I decided to stay.
The weather was on and off again rain, so during the breaks I toured around the local roads and the town. Awesome scenery. Awesome little town. Awesome little side roads, and everything in between. After 3pm the breaks in the rain seemed to get longer so I decided to run up the Animas forks trail up to the ghost town. Along the way there were some amazing side roads along the river that offered great rock road riding and scenery. A few small water crossings and some very rocky sections eventually led to my first drop. Fortunately tourist traffic from riders, UTV and jeep folks meant I'd only have to wait about 5 minutes before someone spotted me from the road above. Next thing you know, I have 5 guys ready to help. The bad part is that I only dropped the bike because I was turning around on a rut and simply put my foot down with nothing to touch. This was the one and only time I dropped the bike, so I was excited that the rest of the experience was without a drop as you read on.
The forks trail was really great and was a good warm up round before hitting the big stuff in a couple of days. The scenery, the drop offs, the 15ft wall of snow still present on the trail were all amazing to see and experience. A couple of moose out of camera view for my gopro were also a highlight for the day as I returned back to Silverton just as a storm cloud passed over me. The rain offered a level of excitement as I focused on holding a good line all the way back into the valley mindful of the many shear drop off's along the way as the bike bounced and hopped along he slippery rocks and muddy sections. Note: This was not considered a difficult trail, however if your not experienced with standing and controlling your bike with your feet then beware of this and any other trail around this area. Rocks are everywhere and you MUST know how to utilize the "Weightless Rider" technique Bret Tacts explains on his youtube "Mototrek" channel.
Later in the evening I met my new friend from Canada at the gas station - hotel. He ended up staying at the same place so as noted above, due to his lack of knobby tires, we planned to run the Alpine loop together with him renting a side by side and me on my bike. Note: Due to the weather and other considerations on Sunday- I decided to stay in Silverton my entire time and simply planned to run the trails and roads daily. Unfortunately weather affected daily plans.
Today was the planned "big trip" over the Alpine loop, however MAJOR thunderstorms rolled in around 530am and didn't finish until around 3pm. To shorten this story a little here's the stripped down version: Boom, Boom, Boom as the lightning has a different effect when you're already at 9300 ft elevation. Being in the storm was quite the experience. Sunshine for 30 - 45 minutes, then Boom, Boom, Boom. Now repeat this all the way until 315pm. Netflix was great!.
After 330, Cam and I road around town and local roads and proceeded to do the tourist thing in Silverton. Both of us in search of the perfect gift for our other half back home. Here's another shortened version of the story. Silverton- an old mining town established in the 1800's is full of charm, history, original buildings, board walks, one paved road, many dirt streets, awesome local people, 2 operating steam trains from 1800, great BBQ and an awesome pub called "Handlebars". Google the rest and you'll want to visit regardless if you ride or not.
The big day is finally here. Weather was great, breakfast not so great for me, and the conditions as reported by other riders were favorable despite the heavy rains and bad weather on Tuesday. We were advised to run the Alpine loop backwards given the conditions and natural wear and tear from the summer traffic. So this meant going up Animas forks, up the steep side of Engineer pass, down to Lake City, around the lake, up the gradual side of Cinnamon pass, down the steep side of Cinnamon, back to Animas forks, and back to Silverton. It took about 7 hours and wow, what an amazing ride. The traffic was relatively light but there were a few instances where folks on 4 wheeler's didn't yield to me on two wheels which made for a few interesting moments right on the 180 to 190 degree switchbacks. I'll take this opportunity to make a few serious points especially if you're not an experienced rider looking to take this trip. At minimum you MUST be comfortable with standing on your pegs and allowing the bike to work underneath you. I would go as far as stating that you should at least have a hundred off road miles or more utilizing this technique. At minimum you MUST be comfortable and experienced with keeping your head level to the direction you're heading similar to making the slow speed tight U turns on the pavement. This is critical specifically on the switchbacks as it's extremely easy to be distracted by the views, the drop off's, the rock cliff on one side of you and the off camber washes that lead into each switch back. At minimum you MUST be comfortable with a standing slow roll to keep momentum as you quickly pick your line into the switch back and proceed to power into the line you selected. At minimum you MUST be comfortable and experienced with simply picking a line in rocky terrain and staying committed to that line and be prepared for unexpected hops "weightless rider technique".
Now considering that these two passes are considered easy to moderate by the locals, I say always think of them all as moderate to extreme because the terrain changes with every vehicle, every storm, and every person that traverses these routes. Youtube videos are MISLEADING because the conditions change regularly. Also take into consideration that depending on shutter speed and lens type, video footage seems to soften things up a bit. Even my footage (assuming my short video will load) doesn't represent well what I actually experienced and I tried desperately to keep as steady as possible in 2.7k at 60fps.
My GSA with enduro transmission never left 1st gear the entire way up each pass. There were very few places that I could stay in second without the concern for damaging a tire. Another consideration for managing speed was simply due to the reality that a bad line selection with too much speed in several sections could potentially end in death. That said, we were told the 15 mph speed was strictly enforced so compliance meant we had a better chance of avoiding anything bad happening. Seemed like the right thing to do. Lol.
All in all, the loop was amazing. The best cameras in the world will never capture the full beauty of a place like this. For those who say this trip or at least this area should be on your bucket list as an adventure rider, I fully agree and support this claim, but I would add this note: If you plan to run any of these passes either as part of the BDR or just to run them, then please travel lite. In hindsight, if I would have stuck with my original plan then I would have been running up Cinnamon pass (not the recommended way this time of year) fully loaded. Although I consider myself a intermediate to experienced rider, I'm not sure that some of the special circumstances I ran into would have ended the same way. On this day I did have my soft bags loaded with only about 25 total pounds, but at times when shifting my weight and dirt tracking up and out of the ruts in many of the switchbacks, the extra weight forced me to tame my actions quickly and cautiously.
To summarize this day I guess I'll simply say "AMAZING". Thanks to the Lord for watching over me and giving me the strength, courage, and the opportunity to take this adventure. Thanks to my new friend Cam. Thanks to all the amazing wonderful people I met on the way out, in Silverton, on the trail, and on the way back home. Thanks to my family and friends.
Although I had this day planned as part of the adventure riding, I decided to start heading home in an effort to make it home by Saturday night. Taking the upcoming Monday off meant that I'd have Sunday to unpack and rest and Monday to continue resting and clean my gear including the bike.
So with that plan in place, I altered my route home and it became a great adventure on the road for the first day and a half. I departed Silverton at 8am with the idea of running the million dollar highway up to Ouray. WOW!!! I won't say anything else other than enjoy it if you do it, keep your head level into the turns, DON'T look at the white line in the sections that literally just fall off the side of the road 1000 feet or more to the valley below, and take it all in.
After passing Ouray, I continued north and took highway 50 east as it appeared on google maps to be a great ride. WOW!!!!! Cherohala skyway type road for 5 hours as you work your way down slightly in elevation. You're also along water the entire way with crazy cool views, landscape, rock features and great pavement with speeds mostly around 70 or 75. Then I took interstate for a several hours to Raton New Mexico to sleep the night. The next morning I continued on an off interstate series of highways working my way across the northeast portion of New Mexico and northwest section of Texas where I experience stretches of road along amazing valleys with stretches of road that literally took me back in time when the cowboys would travel in wagon trains across these same valleys with their families in tow on the constant look out for indians in the distant mountains. I saw buffalo, cattle, canyons carved from the heavy rains, scattered remains of ranches built in late 1800's and very interesting cloud patters formed by the heat rising from the valley floor, up the face of the distant mountains.
I continued on these routes until I eventually dropped onto I 40 just past Amarillo Texas. At that point it was back to simple road trip back home, but I did manage to hop off onto route 66 for about an hour as I worked my way back home.
So all said and done, it was a great trip and I'm planning to go back next year. To conclude here are a few details that were asked by some of my friends.
Total miles - 3921.
Tire status- Great (Recall I installed brand new TKC 80's before leaving) Front tire easily has 1500 or more miles left on it, and the rear tire for sure has 1000-1100 miles left.
Hours ridden per day- I tried to average 11 actual riding hours per day not including stops.
Bike condition- VERY VERY DIRTY. 3 days to clean to make it look like the original picture I posted on the first initial post to this site. Lol.
Type of Bags - I purchased those basic nelson rigg waterproof bags (27liter) ($180 for the pair). 6lbs each. Way lighter than my metal touratech panniers. They held up well and were not damaged during my one and only tip over on the first day. (I did drag them across the ground while spinning the rear of the bike into position and they didn't rip.) 2 50 liter top bags and 2 8 liter roll bags. total weight 59lbs.
Safety-Comm- I took a garmin in reach mini, but my google maps location sharing worked the entire time and better than the garmin so family was able to see my exact location. The primary need for the garmin was to have the SOS capability. Sena 20S evo. Garmin 590LM and Google maps on Note 9 phone for navigation. Note: most of the routes are actually roads that come up on google maps so really didn't need tracks for the GPS.
People Issues- Nope, none at all. Like I stated above, i was a celebrity everywhere I stopped, especially on the way home once the bike and my suite were covered in grime, dust, dirt, bugs, etc. Simply put, just some amazing people out there. Folks old and young, kids, grandmothers, dads, the list goes on and on. So many well wishes, dreamer statements, prayers, a few pictures, thumbs up, waves, and a couple of folks from other countries doing the same thing. Cam from Canada, several couples from France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
This video is just a quick unedited combination of a few clips that I let GoPro quick auto edit in a small file size to post. Nothing fancy.
If you made it this far, then thanks for reading and keep an eye out for my invite next year.
God Bless you all and safe riding. Hope to see / meet some of you at one of our club events.
Be sure you sign up for the Friday RALLY dinner gathering for the GA group. Dutch treat and a great time to meet others.