BMW Paonia Rally Colorado and Santa Fe Return
July 18, 2007
Debbie and I decided to make a long vacation out of the Top of the Rockies Rally by meeting up with our good friends Troy and Susan at Paonia, and then drifting down to Santa Fe later. We were going to be gone for a while and Deb does not care for sitting on the back of the bike all day long (which I can understand), so we trailered the K75S for a good portion of the trip. We drove up to Raton, NM for the first night and stayed at the retro-looking Melody Lane Motel along with many of New Mexico’s finest, who were meeting in the area for a law enforcement conference. It was comfortable knowing that the law was right next door if we needed them.
|Heading out of Texas as quickly as possible.
(ready for some mountain air)
After a quick breakfast at our elegant motel, we headed over Raton Pass at the border and turned off I-25 at Walsenburg in Colorado. Hwy 69 was a winding 2-lane that just cried for a ride to fully enjoy it. I was driving along and mentioned in passing to Deb that this would be a great bike road. She said, “Fine – ride”. I guess I did not think she truly meant that and I drove on. So another 10 miles or so passes, and I asked her if she was serious. She said she was expecting this and for me to unload the bike and ride. I spent no more time talking this over and found a wide spot in the road near the Buffalo warning signs. The weather was great and the roads just challenging enough, but not to the point that I couldn’t enjoy the mountains on each side of the valley we were traveling through.
I had to ride after seeing the winding roads and mountains.
|Monarch Pass at 11,000 feet was no strain for my K, but I heard from Deb later that the car was working hard on the climb.|
Blue Mesa Reservoir
|Hwy 92 on the north rim of The Black Canyon of the
Gunnison was a trip! There were so many turns in short order, it was
difficult to take in the scenery for fear of running right off the road.
|We went up into the wine country northwest of Hotchkiss to the Leroux Creek Inn, a bed and breakfast on a vineyard. We met
Troy and Susan after their drive down from Ft. Collins and had dinner later in Hotchkiss.
The inn had some very laid-back dogs that kept Debbie company
Deb followed me for 270 miles to near Hotchkiss where we met Troy and Susan at the Leroux Creek Inn. This 4-room adobe inn was on a working vineyard 8 miles up the hills toward Grand Mesa. Troy had already unloaded his K100RS and had run over with Susan to the rally site to check in. They drove up very soon after we arrived. We exchanged hugs and smiles and took in the warm evening sunlight bathing the vines outside of the inn while sipping our favorite drinks.
|Deb and I headed out on the bike with Troy for a trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison where Deb and Susan parted for some hiking.
Yvon, our French innkeeper host, kept us both entertained and well-fed. Friday morning, Yvon fixed us a great breakfast which we enjoyed overlooking the valley. Shortly afterwards Troy, Deb and I mounted our bikes for a ride around the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I dropped Debbie off at the park so she could hike with Susan along the Canyon rim. Troy and I continued along Hwy 50 through Cimmarron and some nice sweepers on to the Blue Mesa Reservoir. After a brief stop at the dam, we carefully negotiated the very twisty Hwy 92 along the north rim of the canyon. We stopped at Smuggler’s Rest for water and a snack and took in the spectacular view. The descent took us back towards Paonia via the back roads to the rally site.
We headed on north down 92 through some of the most spectacular scenery and twisties that I have seen. The rally grounds was a sea of tents scattered throughout the tall shady trees of the city park. I picked up my registration packet and we then started the difficult decisions as to which prize buckets to drop our tickets in.
Later our host Yvon, prepared a fantastic duck dinner back at the Inn. We rejoined with the girls to hear their stories of hiking the canyon and later driving up to Crested Butte. Troy and I tried to describe the wonderful twisties that we had experienced earlier, but the words did not do the roads justice.
Wine and Tequila later at the inn was a great way to end the day with very fine friends.
|Bill and Glenn from the Denver area went out for an all-day ride along Black Canyon and through Gateway.
Saturday morning brought another beautiful day to explore roads on two wheels. Bill and Glenn were getting ready to do a 400-miler down towards Red Mountain and out west through Gateway. Our plan for the day was to ride over Grand Mesa to DeBeque and make a great circle passing to the south of Aspen. We took some very narrow roads that Yvon recommended to get us to the climb up Grand Mesa. The forest thickened and the temperature dropped as we topped the mesa. When we started the descent on the west side of Grand Mesa, the dramatic change in the vegetation was very obvious. In 15 miles, what was lush and green turned to desert dry scrub. It was still very pleasing to look at, and the twisty narrow road to DeBeque demanded attention, but was great fun. The superslab from DeBeque to Glenwood Springs wasn’t near as much fun, but it got us back to the 2-lane mountain roads that we wanted.
45 1/2 road towards De Beque – Great Twisties!
|It was threatening rain, so I pulled over to stash the camera in the
saddlebag. The rain started slowly as we left the interstate, and it
let up quickly so we could take in Aspen-area peaks in the afternoon
We rode west of Aspen and made our way up to the very small community of Marble.
|The road up to Marble was twisty and followed a mountain stream lined with Aspens. Out front of the general store, a weaver was putting together a rug. It was serene until the 4 Harleys fired up their motors and broke the mountain silence. After the silence returned once again, another sound caught our attention – Thunder. We finished our drinks quickly and started heading down to the main road.
Riding up McClure Pass was technical, and thank goodness the roads were still dry at this point. But on the eastern side, the deluge hit. We stopped to put on rain gear, and continued our way down the mountain in driving rain. It was still beautiful riding even with the rain, but I would have preferred a dry sunny Colorado afternoon sky. Once Troy sensed we were close to the inn, he was like a horse heading for the barn. I think he had his fill of wet riding for the day. We met back up with the girls and headed over to the rally for a BBQ dinner.
|Went to the rally grounds later that evening. Quite a tent city. Troy found he had won a massage and quickly took advantage of that. Nice…
Departed Sunday morning from Hotchkiss after a wonderful breakfast including singing by Victoria. We loaded Troy’s K in his truck and I readied mine for a ride through the Million Dollar Highway over Red Mountain Pass.
|Deb was OK again with driving the car so I could experience the
mountain roads out of Colorado. Did I mention she’s a great wife? The
ride outside of Ouray was very technical with 10 mph switchbacks and
breathtaking views. I came across several bicyclists that were working
very hard on the climbs. I respect their effort, but I have found that
it is definitely easier twisting the throttle. I’ve been trying to
convince the rest of my System E cycling team of that, but they won’t
listen. Once in Durango, I loaded the bike on the trailer to give Debbie a
break from driving, although the roads still beaconed for two wheels.
|We drove east across the Colorado/New Mexico border and turned south
towards Chama. This is a mystical part of Northern New Mexico with
plenty of rain that keeps the area lush. The drive into Santa Fe was
typical southwest summer landscape with sweeping panoramas and towering
thunderclouds. The afternoon sun was spilling through the clouds as
rays of light illuminating select areas of the high desert.
The Faralito Inn was nestled back off of a typical narrow Santa Fe
street just south of the Square. We settled in and later walked to
the Coyote Cafe rooftop cantina to watch the sunset and enjoy some
Deb and I walked around Santa Fe through the evening and took in the art that was evident everywhere we looked.
|The next morning, we took the bike on a ride over the High Road to Taos, which follows along the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos
through some very small villages. The weather was once again great,
and the company of my wife on the ride making it that more enjoyable.
Horses were on the road just around this corner. Not much time for inattention.
| We stopped before
leaving the High Road to take in the Jemez Mountains.
|This trio of unlikely species were obvious good friends.
|After dinner we made our way up to relax in a secluded hot tub at Ten
Thousand Waves. This foothills oasis is on the way up the ski road
near Hyde State Park. When the sky is clear, the view of the stars is wonderful. This night,
however, was filled with the remnants of afternoon thunderclouds. The
storms and late afternoon rain shafts made for some great sunset images
that looked like paintings.
July 24, 2007
Tuesday morning, we reluctantly packed up and made our way back home. I always look forward to returning back to this region, and wonder if I ought to make a home here, but the technology-driven career that I have ties me to the large cities. Whine, whine…
Looking back towards Santa Fe one last time.
The trip up into Colorado and back through New Mexico was very relaxing and exciting at the same time with the twisty mountain rides on my K that performed flawlessly. It was fun spending time again with Troy and Susan in Colorado. Deb and I had some quality time wandering around Santa Fe. Can’t wait to do it all again!