September 12, 2003 GMT
DAY 9

Day 9

Gunnison, Colorado, to Buena Vista, Colorado

251 magnificent, spectacular miles

2006 Total Miles

Yesterday we said that not every day can be wonderful. Well, today was just that, and more.

We broke out of our two-day doldrums in a big way.

First things first. The weather. In a way, we have become at one with America's farmers. Like them, we live by the weather. We look at every weather report on TV, we check the papers and we are always scanning the skies for threatening clouds. Here in the mountains the skies are always complex and cloud patterns are constantly shifting.

After an early departure from the Gunnison Comfort Inn, we stopped at the Perfect Blend, a combination coffee shop/outdoor clothing shop. Not an intuitive combination, but apparently it works. Bo was able to find a fleece jacket (like the one he has at home but didn't need for the trip!).

bluemesa
Blue Mesa Resevoir outside Gunnison

From Gunnison we took Highway 50 and then hit Highway 92, which follows the northern rim of the black gorge of the Gunnison River. The views were incredible, as they were all day. On this stretch of the road we enjoyed a dizzying array of twisty roads that continued to climb to higher altitudes. The lack of guard rails and the prospect of a 1000 foot drop from any given hairpin curve kept us under control.

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This is SPECTACULAR! Thanks to Jerry Cassidy!

bluegunn2
More Black Gorge views

We keep repeating this, but the views were breathtaking. Which cuts both ways. You want to enjoy the view but you don't want to wander off the road (see prospect of 1000 foot drop in paragraph above). But it's like TV. When it's on, you cannot keep your eyes off of it. We pulled off the road a few times, we slowed down a bit and we stayed on the road.

We crossed McClure's Pass at 8,750 feet, which was only a prelude for better things later in the day.

In Hotchkiss, Colorado, we saw a crude hand-lettered sign that read, "Elk Meat for Sale." Fifty feet away was a sign welcoming us to Hotchkiss put up by the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks. Somebody was lying. Sorry we didn't have our cameras.

We stopped in Carbondale, Colorado, for lunch. We had never heard of Carbondale but it was a very tony community. Fancy shops, nice houses and expensive cars were everywhere. We stopped a police car to ask directions and he flicked on his blue lights while he talked with us. We got a lot of respect in town after that!

After Carbondale we rode Highway 82 through Snowmass and Aspen. We looked as we drove through Aspen but didn't see anyone famous.

aspenvista
Aspen area views

After Aspen came the highlight of the day, Independence Pass. Although the roads were clear, Independence Pass, at 12,500 feet, was covered with snow and offered the best views we have yet seen. The road up was twisty and often narrowed to less than two lanes. On the way down we had to negotiate turns that were covered with sand (their version of road salt). Sand is not considered a preferred motorcycle road surface. Once past the sandy curves the road opened up and we enjoyed a great decent on winding roads.

indpass
COLD UP HERE!

indpassbikes
Check the snow. This was intimidating!

We ended up in Buena Vista, Colorado, a little town located in the middle of a massive high plains and surrounded on every side by towering, snow-capped peaks. We plan to stay at the Motel 8 for two days so tomorrow requires no packing. A luxury indeed. With no luggage, we will also be riding much lighter bikes.

Posted by Bill Thompson at September 12, 2003 04:24 AM GMT
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