Day Eleven



September 15, 2002

Boulder, CO -
Buena Vista, CO

319 miles

6:22 riding time

7 Passes Today
35 Passes To Date

Great road up to Cottonwood Pass - this looks east from the pass towards Buena Vista.

Yesterday morning, it started with a twinge.  Midday it became a pang.  By evening, I was sure of it—I was homesick.

271 West Elm Street
Where I used to live

After being on The Road for nine days, it didn't surprise me that I came down with the malady on our layover day.  Riding, you're almost always in "the zone".  Your mind is occupied with the myriad details of the day—handling the bike, taking pictures, anticipating the next gas stop, wondering if the bike needs oil, and the million other things that make motorcycle touring what it is.  But yesterday, with the day relatively free, I let my guard down.  I started thinking about home, wife, kids, our family cat, how the Mariners are doing (badly), and how nice it would be to sleep in my own bed (wonderful).  It didn't help that our layover day was in Louisville, a suburb of Boulder, where my wife and I used to live.  I remember my two years living in Colorado fondly—great weather, great bicycling, great skiing, great airplane flying, great lots-of-things.  It was also the last major period in my life before having children.  Looking back, it seems almost ridiculously carefree.

Reader and friend Bob Seidensticker commented in email a couple days ago that motorcycle riding might be considered a form of therapy.  I think he is absolutely right.  Gizmo touched on the therapeutic value of motorcycle riding the other day when he talked about Maslow and motorcycling—how you enter your own little world where you think about things in a way that you don't normally, and in doing so, gain new perspective and insight.  But unfortunately, like any process that throws you into a different loop, there are times when you REALLY want your old loop back, and yesterday was the day.  If a snap of my fingers could have put me back home, there was an instant when I would have snapped away.

Steep drop-offs for hundreds, even thousands
of feet occur often on the road up to Independence
Pass.  One book I have suggests that squeamish
drivers traverse the pass from east to west which
reduces the need to drive near road edges.

But it was good that no magic space/time warp-snap was available.  Without one, I soldiered on.  Ten minutes into today's ride this morning, I was back in "the zone", one with The Road.   I'm still a little homesick but I realize that is the price to pay to be with a good friend, riding roads I've never ridden, and gaining a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Neither Gizmo nor I view this trip as "just another tour."  I doubt we'll take another tour this ambitious again, or put this much time and effort into another.  And neither of us are getting any younger.  I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see myself sport-touring when I'm eighty years old.  We definitely don't take what we're doing for granted.  It is a precious gift.

This gentleman took our picture at
Independence Pass, as well as four other
parties.  He was German and took his
work quite seriously.

Ok, enough deep introspection, on to today.  This was the day in the tour to bag lots of high-mountain Colorado passes.  We got incredibly lucky on weather with clear blue skies and relatively warm temperatures.  The only downside was a surprising amount of traffic, probably because it was a warm fall weekend day in the mountains with the fall colors, particularly the aspens, spectacular at higher elevations.  I was expecting only a few cars on the road, but many of the passes we visited had long lines of vehicles creeping along well below the speed limit.  And Colorado likes to set 35 and 45 mph speed limits on most of its pass roads with no-passing zones for miles at a stretch.  This makes sense in the tight curvy areas, but most of the pass roads we're on are twisty only for small sections (typically near the top), so someone religiously staying well under the limit will cause huge traffic backups and no one was being courteous and pulling over.  It doesn't make any sense to me - roads nearly identical to these were posted for 70 mph in Montana.  Have I told you lately how much I love Montana?

I've been remiss in giving you origins of the pass names, so I thought I'd start now with the seven we visited today.

Berthoud Pass, named for Captain Edward Berthoud who, along with explorer Jim Bridger, surveyed the area for a possible railway crossing.

Loveland Pass, named for W. A. H. Loveland,
who founded the town of Golden, (of Coors beer fame)
and developed the wagon road over the pass in 1879.
Hoosier Pass, named for nearby Hoosier Gulch which was worked by prospectors from Indiana in the 1860's. Fremont Pass, named for Captain John Fremont who explored the area in 1844.  Where's Giz?  He whizzed right past it without seeing the sign.  Too busy looking at his gizmos probably.
Tennessee Pass, named for Tennessee prospectors
who worked the area near the pass.
Independence Pass, named for the town and Independence Mine just to the west.  The mine was discovered on July 4, 1879, hence the name.

The last pass of the day, Cottonwood Pass, was the best.  We enjoyed much lighter traffic, as the road goes from Buena Vista up to Cottonwood, and then becomes gravel from Cottonwood to Aspen.  Most traffic going to and from Aspen uses Independence Pass to the north.  CR-304 to Cottonwood Pass is quite technical and challenging with numerous 15-mph hairpins, sometimes chained together.

Cottonwood Pass, named for the Cottonwood river with numerous cottonwood trees.  It is the highest pass we'll visit and the highest paved pass on The Great Divide. Spectacular view looking west from Cottonwood Pass towards Aspen.

This is mining country, with evidence of mining everywhere.  At the top of Fremont Pass is the dormant Climax Molybdenum Mine with gigantic, yellow-green tailing ponds.   Leadville has that gritty, mining-town feel to it, although the tourist business seems quite brisk.  We must have seen thirty motorcycles while having lunch at the Golden Burro.

Gizmo doesn't want to return home with a single W&G card undistributed, so in the course of the day, we managed to annoy a few more people.  You have to be careful - when the card comes out, people immediately think you're trying to sell them something.  I've taken to adding the phrase, "Hey, we're just doing this for fun..." to make sure they understand our intentions.

Steve, IronButt rider, hails from Denver
and does big miles on his ST1100.
Road King rider Tim, from Milwaukee Wisconsin, was headed home after attending a wedding in Aspen.  We saw lots of bicyclist today and I felt guilty that all I needed to do to speed up was twist my right wrist.
Older couple we met at Hoosier Pass where I took their picture.  They reviewed our route and told us we were going the wrong way. At Loveland Pass, standing on what felt like the top of the world, I engaged a group in bike talk. They were quite envious of our adventure and spent some time admiring our BMWs.

That wraps today.  As always, thanks for traveling with us.  Tomorrow we "do it again" by heading further south to Pagosa Springs Colorado, catching four more high passes before we enter New Mexico on Tuesday.  Over and out.

Contest #6: Round up the Roundels!

Wow, what a turnout!  We received the first response within 12 minutes of posting Day 9, and the first correct response a few minutes later.  You guys are awesome!  The correct answer was 11 roundels

Glenda Revelle of New York City was the first to guess the correct number 28 minutes after posting, followed by Tom Brady (:60), Scott Ferguson (3:19) and David Grady (4:20).  The lowest guess was 5, submitted by Tom Boyle, and the highest guess was 19, also submitted by Tom Boyle, who appeared to be using the 'flood-the-airwaves-with-your-entries' style of voting recently perfected with 'American Idol'.  Tom managed to figure out every possible number between 5 and 19 inclusive, and submit each of them as a response!

For the record, Gizmo's steed has 4 roundels, while Whizmo's has 7 (he added a little hubcap doodad he bought off the Internet).

Two entries were particularly notable.  Scott Ferguson came closest to following the judge's guidelines for submitting an entry printed on a $100 bill while simultaneously guessing the correct number.  Well done, Ferg! 

Scott Ferguson's entry on a custom $100 bill -
a contestant who actually followed the guidelines!

Bing Gordon did a little detective work at the 4 B's gas station and noted that they swiped one of Gizmo's roundels, adding it to their wall-mounted collection of memorabilia.

Hey, who swiped my roundel?

And speaking of the 4 Bs, it's time for another music challenge, Contest #7 in the W&G series, 'Music From The Road II'.

OK, here's how it works.  Listen to the sequence of musical excerpts contained in this audio clip.  You may want to download it to your machine to listen to it over and over again.  When you think you know the answers, click here to send us your answers, in the following format:

  1. Name each piece of music, and the performing artist.   Example:  On The Road Again, Willie Nelson
  2. In the case of classical music, name the piece of music and the composer.
  3. You have three lifelines.  Use them wisely.  (Hey, how would we know?)
  4. DO NOT send us the artist's birthdate, their given name, embarrassing or little-known facts about their childhoods, the date the piece in question first made the Billboard charts, the complete and unabridged lyrics of all their music, towns which named themselves after the artist, 2 megabyte 600dpi files of your autographed copy of the original "banned" album artwork, or your suggestions of the much, much better versions of the music that we should have used.  The judges frown on this type of activity, especially when it's late and the bar is calling. 
  5. The earliest completely correct response will be declared the winner.  If no one nails it, the most nearly correct response, in the opinion of the judges, will be declared the winner.
  6. It's that simple!  Let the guessing begin!