September 20, 2003 GMT
Day 17

Monument Valley, Utah, to Placerville, Colorado

242 miles

3973 total miles

We awoke for Day 17 still tired from a couple of demanding days. Our plans included a trip to Four Corners and drive on the "Million Dollar Highway." Our destination for the day was Ouray, Colorado, a quiet little town nestled in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains. Ouray is known for its' hot springs and vapor caves.

After packing up our bikes, we did our every-other-day tire pressure check. Bill discovered very low pressure in his front tire and found a small puncture. Not to panic. Your wanderers are well equipped for such a thing. Within minutes, Bill plugged the puncture and inflated the tire to 34 psi.

Under beautiful sunny skies we then set out on Highway 163 on the way to Four Corners. After about 30 miles we turned east into Arizona on Highway 160. The ride would have been impressive had we not seen what we've seen in the last 16 days. The visual competition is just too stout. The terrain is best described as high desert, arid and flat with a smattering of mesas.
High desert in Najaho reservation

We reached Four Corners and turned into the monument area. Frankly, it was about as cheesy as humans could make it. The site was ugly and the parking lot was gravel (we hate gravel). It was like a little slice of Panama City dropped on the desert. Surrounded by little booths selling all kinds of tourotrash, the monument does provide the opportunity to defy the laws of quantum physics: being in four places at one time.

So, we dismounted our bikes and waited our turn to have our pictures made while standing simultaneously in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
Bo at 4 corners

Once this obligatory bit of tourism was completed, we headed into Colorado en-route to Cortez, where we hoped to find a new front tire for Bill's bike.

We reached Cortez, Colorado. Your lucky travelers immediately spotted the Gene Patton Honda/Suzuki dealership. We turned into the parking lot and hoped aloud that they carried tires that fit a BMW. Our lucky streak continued. They had a tire that fit, and mechanic Shelby Buffington (truly a name for a champion yachtsman rather than a motorcycle mechanic) installed it within a hour.
Shelby Buffington - Thanks, Shelby!

Now well behind schedule, we had a late lunch and plotted a new course. We decided to continue on as planned, but stop at Telluride, Colorado, rather than Ouray.

It was great fun returning to Colorado's back roads. The "Million Dollar Highway," a name growing less and less impressive as inflation erodes its' value, is a 225 mile loop that clings on the mountainsides of the San Juan Mountain chain. The twisty road first followed the Dolores River and provided us another a striking ride. As we gained altitude, the views, of course, became spectacular.
Those wonderful Colorado mountains and views

We soon reached Telluride. An old mining town newly discovered by the skiing world, Telluride is lovely but just plain expensive. With two-bedroom log cabins selling in the $1.2 million range and rooms at the Hotel Telluride going for $200 per day (up to $475 during skiing season), Telluride is a place for the rich and famous. We drove carefully on its streets to make sure we didn't run over Robin Leach.

We hopped back on our bikes and exited Telluride. We were riding an isolated area and it was getting late. Where to stay? What the Hell. Rather than obsessing over our need for lodging, your noble riders decided instead to concentrate on the twisty roads ahead. As luck would have it (and we've had a lot of it on this trip), we soon zipped by a busy establishment called the Blue Jay Restaurant and Lodge in Placerville. We turned around and found splendid lodging for the night. Their restaurant is first-rate and the day ended on a high note.

See you tomorrow.

Posted by Bill Thompson at September 20, 2003 04:23 PM GMT

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