Deadlines. Normally when Aaron and I travel, we try not to have any – go where we like and leave where we don’t is how we prefer to do things. As such, itineraries don’t usually factor in. Aaron had set up a week in Cabo before we left Illinois through a special deal that made it more than reasonable. This is important because it gave us only 13 days to get from Wisconsin to Cabo San Lucas, which if taking the most direct roads is a bit over 3,000 miles.
Colorado is one of our favorite states. It’s great for hiking, camping, snowboarding, climbing, fishing, adventure riding, and a host of other outdoorsy things we like. We’ve also got a lot of good friends there, so for it to only be allotted 2 days in our journey was sad, but necessary.
We limped towards Denver from the Nebraska-Coloradan border. Aaron’s right leg, from his upper thigh to his boot, was drenched in oil and every time he slowed to a stop a white cloud accompanied with a thick oily stench. As we got stuck in standstill traffic outside the city, Aaron’s chain came off again. He pulled off to the shoulder and I followed.
There wasn’t any bunching up of the chain in that awful plastic box (like in Iowa), so putting the chain back on wasn’t much of an issue. Continuing on without it happening again, however, was. So Aaron, in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, rode the shoulder slowly to avoid the stop-go motion he figured would hurt the situation. I, not wanting to look like I was cheating/budging in line and worrying over our exit, did not follow. When I slowly rolled up to Aaron, we had a heated dispute over whether or not it was ever acceptable to not follow the leader, as getting separated in some places could be a good deal more serious and a few other issues. In the end, we agreed that I should have followed and that we had missed the exit by riding the shoulder too far up the road.
The mistake cost us about 30 minutes, as we had to ride down the main streets of Denver to get to my friends’ place. We arrived exhausted. Mixed with the feeling of relief that came from actually getting to our destination, there was the feeling that everything seemed like a chore: unbungeeing things and bringing them inside, unpacking, sitting on a couch, talking, eating…
We ended the night knowing that we were still pressed for time and that Aaron’s oil situation needed attention. So Aaron, being Aaron, woke up at 5am and got on the Adventure Riding forums. Within an hour he got responses from several good Samaritans offering to take care of us.
We met with a guy named Jim at Performance Cycle in Denver (when they heard about our ride they gave us a discount). He took a look at our bikes outside and expressed some doubts as to how far we would get from Denver without a good few things. Long story short, he advised we buy a lot more than we planned and we spent about $600 that day (we were really thankful for the discount they gave us).
From there he brought us to his friends place. Aaron recognized the name from the forums and asked, “Mountain? What’s his real name?” Turns out the man’s real name is “Mountain Eagle.” I asked him about it later and he said it was terrible as a child, but that he’s grown to like it as an adult.
Mountain has a great garage setup and at one time had over a dozen bikes there. He grew tired of paying other people to ruin his bike and decided that he was done with mechanics. He led us through a myriad of procedures and fixes on the bikes and had a presence that made you stick with something until you had it right. Between the unexpected maintenance and waiting for a sprocket Aaron had over-nighted, we were two days behind schedule. We definitely couldn’t count the 15 hours of work we put into the bikes as a waste, though. We vowed to make up the time and made our way to Colorado Springs.
It was about here that we realized that our Garmin was acting odd. By “odd,” I mean that it would turn on, beep a bit, and promptly turn off. I bought this Garmin, which we referred to as “New Garmin,” in Crystal Lake at a Sports Authority because it was on a clearance rack and we wanted a GPS with a color screen. You see, we already had an older black-an-white GPS, which we referred to as “Old Blue,” as it is old and blue. This problem led to a frustrating series of events:
[skip the following bullet points if you don’t have much time]
-Aaron called Garmin and they told us they’d send us a new one and we told them we were travelling and weren’t going to be in the country by the time it would arrive.
-They then told us to go to a Sports Authority and that we could work it out through them.
-S.A. in Denver told us they’d love to help us, but just had a sale on GPS devices and had sold out. The located some in a S.A. on the way to Colorado Springs and said they would help us.
-The service manager at the next S.A.*** claimed that he could not help us, but that there was currently a GPS sale. We took this to mean that he could help us, but didn’t want to.
-We decided we had to rely on Old Blue, but then realized we didn’t have the charging cord and the part was unavailable, as Old Blue is old and outdated.
-Aaron called Garmin again and the guy told us we could send it in, get it fixed, and pay $80 to have it sent back to us… again, we mentioned the travelling thing.
-He then said he could only offer fixing it, because New Garmin was actually old and (assumed point here ->) he suspected us of lying about buying it so recently.
So we wen’t to REI and Aaron bought a brand new Garmin. A cost we did not foresee and an interesting situation of carrying a heavy GPS filled sack with us everywhere.
Anyways, we got to Colorado Springs and picked up our new saddlebag and tank bag (Giant Loop, another company that offered lowered rates to help our trip). Then we went to Aaron’s friend, Dave, and hung out for a bit. We were hoping to talk and catch up, but as soon as we sat on the couch, we fell asleep. In our defense, Dave has a very comfortable couch.
We woke up early the next day, packed, and left for Pike’s Peak, a tall mountain in CO. A long, winding, and frigidly cold road leads all the way to the top. Aaron lost his first set of gloves just before this ride, so he had a rough time of it. It took a long time, but there are so many scenic areas on the way up and the top has a cafe with some tasty many scenic areas and on the top there’s a cafe that makes some tasty donuts, so we forgave ourselves for not making better progress.
Then we tried our best to make it to Lake City, Co. We rode until dark. We started to get really cold, so we bundled up at a cafe/campsite and drank some coffee and continued*
. We got about an hour and a half further before the exhaustion set in and, as we were weaving through jagged mountain passes, we decided we’d rather finish in the light of day. We pulled off the road to a dirt trail and got the sleeping bags out*. The stars that night were crystal clear, but it was a cold night and we didn’t really take time to find good, even ground to sleep on, so neither of us got very good sleep.
The great thing about bad sleep, when you’ve got deadlines, is that you wake up nice and early… or are already awake because you never actually slept (They amount to the same thing). We got up while it was still a bit dark and very cold and kept riding.
We arrived in Lake City while the city was waking up and were greeted by the scent of the local bakery. It was hunting and ATV season, so everyone awake at that time was preparing for sport or catering to that crowd. We met some interesting biker folk outside the bakery while eating blueberry and peach turnovers, drinking coffee, and trying to get blood back in our hands.*(gloves).
We rode the Engineers Pass for the rest of the morning. It’s one of the best rides either of us have ever done. We passed by abandoned mining settlements and picturesque mountains. Animas Fork, a ghost town at the end of the pass, was amazing. There’s something surreal about sitting in the bay window of an old house and looking out on a long deserted town.
The ride led us to Silverton, an Old West sort of town. Silverton was a place that made us hate having lost 2 days in Denver. In a perfect world, we would have spent longer there and headed over to Durango by the end of the day. Instead, we only had time for some lunch, a couple drinks, and a stop at the town’s blacksmith. You see, Aaron’s bag fell off on Engineer’s Pass and we’d reattached it with some zipties. While this fix did seem to be working, it prevented us from accessing the contents of the box as freely as before, so welding it back together was a priority. The blacksmith was happy to help and he charged $5 for the work.
From there we rode on. The landscape slowly started to change sahpe and color; from jagged, stony grey to a smooth, reddish, sandy color. We’d made it to the border of Utah.