Continued from Page 1
The journey toward Utah continued the next morning by going down some stretches of 50 that had to have been top of mind when it was nicknamed “The Loneliest Road in America” because it seemed to stretch on forever.
And into another small town named Eureka (I swear there’s a million Eurekas out West) for some breakfast at a strange place called The Owl Club.
Continuing down 50 after breakfast would put us in Utah, crossing the border at a small gas station and casino that was in the middle of nowhere.
It was a hot day and I remember approaching a vast white area in the distance. My GPS showed a blue spot meaning I should be seeing a lake. I started to wonder if my eyes were playing tricks on me or if I was suffering some sort of fatigue from the heat.
As we got closer, though, we came upon the dry lake bed of Sevier Lake. Of course we had to take a closer look, having only seen something like this in other ride reports and on TV.
It wasn’t long after leaving the lake bed in our rear view mirrors that the terrain began to change. We started to see some of the formations Utah has become famous for. Big canyons and cliff faces covered the land. I remember thinking about how orange everything seemed.
We made it to Moab and checked into the 2nd hotel stay of the trip. It was a decent hotel right on the Colorado river but otherwise unremarkable. We checked in, gathered some laundry, and dad advised he had dinner “hooked up” – due to some miscalculations, though, the hookup was closed. So we got pizza.
Sunrise would have us heading out of Utah for Colorado but not before passing by Wilson Arch.
We took a rather strange and indirect route into Colorado by heading first to Durango. This was because we planned to spend some time around Silverton and maybe check out some mountain passes. We stopped at a small place in Durango and had some lunch.
Heading into Colorado you notice how much greener everything starts to become. Then you start to see the wonderful San Juan mountains.
We took 550 into Silverton. 550 is the Million Dollar Highway known for it’s crazy cliff side curves with no guard rail but that section is mainly between Silverton and Ouray – more on that in a minute. Gassing up in Silverton, it felt like the place to be. Motorcycles and adventure vehicles abound, crisp mountain air, etc. I set the GPS toward Cinnamon Pass and we took of on Route 2 toward Animas Forks.
The views heading that way are some of the best I’ve seen. The road was decently well graded but deteriorates pretty quickly. It was before the junction of Animas Forks and Cinnamon Pass that dad let himself get into his own head too much and decided to turn around. “This is irresponsible” I remember him saying. Being 3,000 miles from home, offroading on street tires. BS. Let’s do this. So I thought.
I climbed on a little further toward Cinnamon Pass and I could tell it was going to be good. The views were getting better by the minute. But it sucked being alone. I thought to myself I’ll just zip up to the pass really quick and head back down. Being it was the end of the day and I was at an elevation I’m not at all used to, I was fatigued and got winded really easily riding the fully loaded Tenere on the rocky, mountainous terrain. I started up the side road toward Cinnamon, dropped the Tenere on its side and, after muscling it up by myself, let caution get the better of me and decided I’d be better off turning around. I wondered if I’d ever be able to make it back out there. (Spoiler, we’re heading back soon – with 250’s this time! See the ride preview here) I took some great photos as I pointed myself back toward Silverton.
Tired and feeling defeated we headed toward Ouray to grab dinner before finding a place to camp. Remember the Million Dollar Highway? This is the gnarly section. I was able to grab a photo while riding which I don’t recommend trying; you can see why.
Ouray is a great little town that came to be as prospectors came in hoping to find silver and gold. We ate at a place called Maggie’s Kitchen and I got Steve’s Patty Melt. Probably the best burger I have ever eaten.
After filling our stomachs, it was time to head into the Uncompahgre National Forest to set up camp for the night. We were heading toward Silver Jack Reservoir but stopped short of it and set up camp right at Owl Creek Pass at around 11,300 feet of elevation.
Sleeping at over 11,000 feet does weird things to your body and we definitely experienced altitude sickness. It was strange, as during the night and going to bed everything seemed fine. But waking up we were nauseous, had headaches, and generally felt hungover. It was time to get off this mountain!
On the way out, though, we had a great view of Courthouse Mountain as we made our way toward Amarillo, TX.
Heading out of Colorado toward flatter, less interesting land you can see the mountains getting smaller; the good stuff behind you in your mirrors. Being out West is a humbling experience. I always hear people talking about wanting to take trips to other countries but after this trip, I always share with them the sights we had seen. We’ve got plenty to see and do in our own backyard.
Amarillo would be our 3rd and final hotel stay and was more or less an uneventful evening. So much so that I didn’t even take any pictures while we were in TX. We did, however, ride through the Northeast corner of New Mexico in one of the most hellacious storms I’ve ever ridden through. It was one of those storms you see off in the distance, and while it looks dark, it doesn’t seem that the storm cell is too big. “We’ll be in and out of it in no time!” – it ended up being one of the scariest times I’ve had on a motorcycle. We were pelted with marble sized hail, gusted with high winds so strong it seemed like a plow truck was trying to move you off the road. To make matters worse, we hit the storm on a stretch of road with nothing around. No gas stations, no overpasses, nothing. We kept saying we would stop at the next opportunity but by that time we had already made it through the storm.
After Amarillo it would be one last night of camping in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains before the final day of heading back toward home through Memphis.
It was a weird point in the trip. The last night we would be out wandering the open road. Every day for two weeks we worried only about the next destination, the sights we’d see that day. Going home seemed so far away. We set up camp right on Lake Ouachita and were gifted one last amazing sunset.
Another great day of weather in the morning and we were off toward Memphis, stopping only long enough to grab lunch. The final 3 hours on 40E were a familiar drive as I used to live in Memphis but it was different this time. Rather than feeling rushed to get the drive to Nashville over with, it was a bit more relaxed. Sort of like finishing a book. You know the end is near by the amount of pages left in your hand but still fresh in your mind are the chapters you’d recently completed.
And just like that, the trip was over. 2 weeks gone in the blink of an eye. 6,699 Miles, 20 states, 4 National Parks, 11,300 feet of max elevation, more than 100 hours of saddle time, and one epic adventure with my old man.
I often find myself going through the photo album and just staring at some of the pictures. Half of me in awe of the beauty of the pictures and the other half amazed –we fucking did it. We completed the trip of a lifetime. The Trip That Never Happens.
I wish there was some sage advice I could leave about planning a trip like this. Although I had been thinking about something like this for years, in all honesty the entire trip came to be in about a week or two. You could spend an eternity asking yourself about how to get away or where to go or what to pack. You just have to do it. Do it and figure the rest out as it happens. That’s the adventure.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.