My first "big" adventure ride with the Tiger is in the books. My dear friend Rois was getting married in Gunnison, and Brenda wouldn't be able to make it out due to work, so it made perfect sense to take the bike out there, and while there, do some riding and maybe even some camping, right?
Lucky for me, George Furko of Northern Colorado Adventure Riders (Facebook group) had recently put together an introductory adventure ride for people just like me, just two weeks prior. I had loaded my unused sleeping bag and single-use tent onto the Tiger and we rode around the Nederland area, ultimately camping for the night near Gold Hill. After that trip I had a list of things I needed (e.g. stove, a dry bag, a few more tools) and assembled those items over the week, and changed the oil and cleaned/re-lubed the air filter.
I had also asked on NoCAR about riding in the Gunnison area, looking for good day rides for a newbie like myself with an adventure bike. I got a TON of ideas, some as complete as turn-by-turn directions on where to go. The people on that group, as well as the ADVRIDER forums, are tremendous resources!
And so the plan was to make a beeline for Gunnison the day of the wedding, and crash a hotel so I could shower and change for the do. The following days would be a string of rides based on the suggestions I'd received from everyone, with some other possible routes of my own, mostly derived from the Steve Farson book, and from my poking around in the Rockies forum of ADVRIDER.
And so last Thursday, I was out of excuses and nervously packed up my shit for the trip:
Friday dawned with beautiful weather, and I loaded up the bike, and headed out:
The ride took me down 93 outta Boulder, onto 285, over Kenosha Pass which reveals the beautiful basin of South Park, and always takes my breath away:
On to Buena Vista, onto U.S. Route 50 to Salida, and from there it was all new scenery to me. The next big milestone was the ride over Monarch Pass, and then Gunnison was up next. About five hours -- four and a half hours of riding -- later, I was in my motel room. Later that day, Rois & Travis got married, and mine was the only moto in the parking lot. =)
Next day's plan was to do Ohio Pass to Kebler Pass, and make a big counter-clockwise loop around the Gunnison Forest; I'd go thru Paonia, down 92 to meet the Black Canyon and ride its north rim, and then scoot back on 50 and 135 up to Crested Butte. Ohio Pass turned out to be still closed, so I ended up taking 135 to CB and having a quick look around before catching Kebler Pass from there.
Kebler Pass takes you through a dense aspen forest and is simply amazing, and all I can think about (and all I've been told) is how amazing this road will look in the fall when the colors start poppin'...
The Black Canyon was cool, but didn't quite do it for me like the Colorado National Monument does. I made a mental note to be sure and visit that one again, only on the bike. I would also like to see the Black Canyon from the south; apparently you can ride all the way down to the river on a steep-ass road, and camp down there. But for this day, I simply got back on 50 in Sapinero and headed back into Crested Butte, where I stopped for the day. I got off the bike and walked 50 feet into a medal ceremony for a mountain bike race, surrounded by pro and amateur mountain bikers, and their dogs. A 24-hour cruiser bike race was also going on. Are you getting a sense of what CB is all about? That place is fucking awesome. I had coffee at Camp 4 like I was told, dinner with friends who happened to be in town, and crashed at my other friends' AirBnB, who were in for the wedding. It was just one happy coincidence after another.
The next day was my "Queen Stage", as I planned to hit Cumberland Pass as well as camp that evening. The plan was to ride north out of Crested Butte on a short loop along what's called Paradise Basin, over Schofield Pass and back into CB, and then on to Gunnison, east on 50 to Parlin, then to Pitkin where I'd start the "real" ride up Cumberland Pass Road. As it happened, I missed the turn to go over Schofield and ended up at a dead-end campsite (which was gorgeous):
When I'd turned around, I saw the trail I'd needed to stay on, and from where I was sittin', it looked pretty fucking steep and narrow. So I headed back the way I came, and on to Parlin. At Parlin, I headed north on 76 past the Ohio City townsite, to Pitkin.
In Pitkin, I stopped in the general store I'd seen pictures of, and chatted with a couple of guys who'd just came in from doing Cumberland on dirt bikes. They said it was "rough" on the other side, but that I "shouldn't have any problems". Oh good.
Cumberland Pass road is on the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR), a ride I've been obsessing about ever since I learned about it a little over a year ago. It's a route that runs from Four Corners Monument in the southwest corner of the state, all the way to the Wyoming border, and it's about 90% off-pavement, going over some of the classic mountain passes in the state. Many of these passes take you up above treeline, affording incredible views of the Colorado mountains. I've loved hiking these high mountains ever since I got to Colorado eleven years ago, and the idea of exploring them from a motorcycle has been a bit of an obsession since getting the Tiger.I thought Cumberland Pass would be a nice intro to that kind of riding, a little sampler of the ride I hope to do later this year. I was graced with clear and dry trail the whole way, and made it up there easily and without incident. I snapped a few obligatory photos of the Tiger in front of the sign at the top:
...before heading down the other side to Tin Cup, and on to Taylor Reservoir for lunch. I even remembered to record this leg with the GPS:
After lunch I went over Cottonwood Pass, which is pretty sedate by adventure rider standards but no less beautiful. Coming down the east side, I started looking for a spot to camp. I settled for a fee site, because I just wasn't sure about just pulling off into the woods and setting up camp -- even though it's all forest land there and you pretty much can do exactly that.
I made camp, sawed some wood for a fire, and produced way more smoke than fire, but that's OK since I was mainly interested in keeping the bugs away with that. It was time for a little dinner out of a bag, a stroll around the area, a little bike maintenance (lubed the chain), and a chance to try out the water filter (it actually worked great), and it was time to crash for the night.
Next day I broke camp, rode down the mountain and into Buena Vista for coffee and gas, then back home -- but this time over Guanella Pass, with a stop for lunch in Georgetown (Lucha Cantina), then 6, to 93, to my driveway.
All in all it was 670 miles over four days, with a few firsts and a few lessons learned, and it's sparked my desire to ride the COBDR (at least from Ophir to Steamboat) later this summer!
Read more posts by this author.