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Thread: A Failed Attempt at All of Colorado's Tens

  1. #1
    A wandering Bird Vagabird's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Portland OR

    A Failed Attempt at All of Colorado's Tens

    Colorado has paved roads to 23 summits over 10,000 feet. I thought it would be fun to string them together on a single trip. I spent considerable time figuring out how to do them with as few backtracks or duplications as possible. I would cross over some passes, but a few I‘«÷d have to go up and down the same side, just to make it all manageable in the five days I had available.

    I left early Friday morning, June 24, confident I would get all 23.

    The closest one to home is Cameron Pass, 10,276 feet:

    Then across Willow Creek Pass.

    This one doesn‘«÷t count, because it‘«÷s only 9,683 feet, but it‘«÷s a nice road and on the way to my next one ‘«Ű Miner Pass, at 10,759 feet:

    I continued on to Trail Ridge Road, which tops out at 12,183 feet.

    There‘«÷s no sign at its summit. Here‘«÷s a rest stop, a little lower:

    Trail Ridge Road is a wonderful ride, but it‘«÷s in a park, which means there‘«÷s lots of traffic and most people are there to look at the scenery. Like Yellowstone, they‘«÷ll stop in the middle of the road if any wildlife appears. Trail Ridge Road is great, but it takes time.

    Next was Berthoud Pass, at 11,307 feet:

    This is a busy road but fun.

    And then Mt. Evans. This road is not a pass. It just goes to the top of the mountain. It cost me $3 ‘«Ű money well spent. This is an incredible road and is the highest paved road in North America, reaching 14,264 feet.

    I am pretty good at making U-turns in a small space, but there were some switchbacks where I used most of the available road, including the opposing lane. The tighter ones have no place to stop for a picture, but here‘«÷s one that did have a stopping place:

    And more:

    At the top, my feeling of success was mitigated by the numbers of bicyclists who had made the climb. If you get a chance, ride to the top of Mt Evans.

    I skipped Loveland Pass and got a room in Dillon. They had only two rooms left because the town was full of bicyclists and their supporters. I had gone just over 400 miles in 11 hours and was exhausted. Why I thought I could cover 350-400 miles a day on some very difficult roads, I don‘«÷t know. I realized that I would have to reconsider my quest.
    '16 R1200RS

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. -- Mae West

  2. #2
    A wandering Bird Vagabird's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Portland OR
    The next morning I set off for Loveland Pass (11,990 feet). I left early to try to get ahead of most of the 1,500(!) cyclists riding to the top. I rode prudently past them, much of the way in the opposing lane.

    Loveland is a nice ride, even with hoards of cyclists. If you‘«÷re traveling I-70 through Colorado, it‘«÷s worth the side trip.

    Feeling better, I headed to Independence Pass. To get there, I crossed Fremont Pass (11,318).

    This is a nice ride ‘«Ű easy but interesting nonetheless. Across the road from the summit sign is the Climax Molybdenum Mine, where they are cutting down the mountains to get to the ore.

    Then I headed through Leadville ‘«Ű a town over 10,000 feet elevation ‘«Ű and up Independence Pass (12,095 feet).

    This is one of the more difficult of the passes, but it is an incredible ride with great scenery.

    Even though the west side is terrific, I shortened my route by riding back down the east side.

    In Buena Vista I had a delicious lunch on the shaded patio of Casa del Sol. Then I headed west across Monarch Pass (11,312).

    This, too, is a good ride. There aren‘«÷t a lot of switchbacks, but it has plenty of curves.

    I then headed for Montrose. I knew that I would have to skip Lizard Head Pass (10,022 feet) if I went to Montrose from Monarch Pass, but I needed to cut back on how much I would attempt. I also wasn‘«÷t recovered from the previous day and wanted to position myself where I could just forget the quest and go home if need-be. I got to Montrose after about 300 miles in 9 hours ‘«Ű a much more manageable day for me.

    At the motel in Montrose was a Honda CBX from New York. I hadn‘«÷t seen a CBX in years and it was a coincidence for one to pop up now. Thirty years ago I had seriously lusted after a CBX but was too poor to consider buying one. This unfulfilled desire was one reason that I had so quickly plunked down a deposit when BMW announced it was coming out with a 6-cylinder bike. I didn‘«÷t get a chance to meet the CBX rider.
    '16 R1200RS

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. -- Mae West

  3. #3
    A wandering Bird Vagabird's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Portland OR
    Sunday morning I headed south on US 550, to ride the San Juan Skyway. It used to be called the Million Dollar Highway. Perhaps they changed the name now that a million dollars isn‘«÷t worth nearly as much as it was 100 years ago. Last time I was on this road I got stuck behind a bunch of motorhomes and the bike overheated. This time I left Montrose before 8 on a Sunday morning and saw little traffic until I got near Silverton.

    Although I‘«÷ve ridden the mountain roads of North Carolina, Georgia, and West Virginia, I‘«÷ve never ridden Deal‘«÷s Gap. Nonetheless, I can‘«÷t believe that it is any better than the San Juan Skyway. For one thing, the Skyway is longer and has more curves. It also has some scary sections:

    The last time I rode this road, I had an R1100 RT and was two-up. This time, singled on the GT, I had no trouble flying past the slowpokes. First is Red Mountain Pass (11,018 feet).

    Then Molas Pass (10,910 feet).

    And then Coal Bank Pass (10,640 feet).

    This is a Don‘«÷t Miss road. If you can ride only part of it, ride the northern part from Ouray to Red Mountain Pass.

    I had an unmemorable lunch in Pagosa Springs. And then down into New Mexico and back to Colorado, to get the southernmost tens ‘«Ű Cumbres (10,022 feet):

    And La Manga (10,230 feet).

    These are OK, especially from La Manga north to the valley floor, but I wouldn‘«÷t go out of your way just to include them. However, if you have time (I didn‘«÷t), ride the Chama-Toltec railway. This is probably the best narrow-gage rail ride in this country.

    The wind really picked up in the afternoon. It seemed that every time I stopped from Chama to Alamosa, someone would ask me how I was handling the wind. Actually, I barely noticed it. The GT is about the most stable bike I‘«÷ve ever ridden, perhaps because the weight is so low. The wind would try to blow me over when I stopped, but underway it was usually not all that evident.

    I stopped for the third night in Alamosa, after about 300 miles in less than 9 hours (including stops).

    I was foolish enough to start this trip with a brand new helmet. It took a while to break it in. It was very comfortable when I first put it on, but after wearing it for hours it became painful. By the middle of the third day ‘«Ű from Montrose to Alamosa ‘«Ű I would have to stop every half hour and take it off. This slowed my progress considerably, but it made for a more relaxed pace. Still, this wasn‘«÷t always a comfortable ride. The helmet is still comfortable when I first put it on. I think that once the sore spot on the side of my head heals the helmet will be fine, but I won‘«÷t test it out by setting off on a five-day trip.

  4. #4
    A wandering Bird Vagabird's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Portland OR
    Monday morning I set off again, this time for Wolf Creek Pass (10,850 feet).

    (The usual sign that would designate this as Wolf Creek Pass was missing, but here‘«÷s a closer view of the remaining sign.)

    Wolf Creek is a fun ride, fairly steep with plenty of curves, but it isn‘«÷t real challenging. I then followed a nice road through Creed to Spring Creek Pass (10,898 feet).

    The road continues to climb up to Slumgullion Pass (11,530 feet).

    (Slumgullion is a miners‘«÷ stew that contains whatever is available.) The road from the pass to Lake City drops almost 3,000 feet in about 7 miles. It‘«÷s steep and contains lots of curves and switchbacks ‘«Ű a really fun ride.

    (This isn‘«÷t a good picture, but I found that lots of the fun roads can‘«÷t be photographed from the few stopping places available.) After the charming town of Lake City, the road continues to be curvy for a while as it follows the river.

    I had a delicious lunch on the shaded patio of El Paradiso in Gunnison. Hmmm, the best lunches on this trip are on shaded patios of Mexican restaurants‘«™

    The first 18 miles of the road to North Cochetopa Pass are plenty curvy, mostly of the 20-30 mph variety, and lots of fun. After that, though, it becomes just a pleasant ride. Here‘«÷s the summit (10,135 feet):

    Heading north again, I crossed Poncha Pass. It doesn‘«÷t count, at only 9,010 feet, but perhaps enough of these lower passes will make up for the over-10,000 foot ones I miss.

    (Those orange dots in the cloud are warning balls on the high-tension electrical wires.)

    I stopped for the night in Buena Vista, happy and not quite so tired, after 340 miles in 9 hours (including sore-head stops).

  5. #5
    A wandering Bird Vagabird's Avatar
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    Jul 2008
    Portland OR
    BONUS POINTS! Even though the map doesn’t indicate it, the desk clerk said the road to the summit of Cottonwood Pass is paved. So I left early to run up to the top and back before continuing on to the planned passes.

    This is a 19-mile road that is plenty curvy once out of town. It is a county road, so most of the curves aren’t marked. And sure enough, the pavement ends at the summit.

    But it was a beautiful morning and a beautiful ride.

    The scenery from the top is wonderful.

    So add an unexpected road – Cottonwood Pass (12,126):

    Back down to Buena Vista and then through Leadville, where I took a left to go across Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet).

    On the southern approach, it is very park-like and pleasant and not very exciting. However, on the northern side it becomes pretty interesting.

    Once back on I-70 I headed east to cross Vail Pass (10,603 feet).

    This is a very pretty ride and good especially considering it is an interstate. Unfortunately, they were doing construction and reduced the road to one lane. We all chugged up the hill behind an equipment hauler going 10 mph.

    Then down the hill to Frisco and up through Breckenridge to Hoosier Pass (11,539 feet):

    This is a heavily travelled road with few passing opportunities. It was getting toward lunch, and I was getting grumpy.

    I had planned to turn around at Hoosier and head home, but it was only lunchtime. I continued across Hoosier and got lunch at the 1870’s hotel in Fairplay. The food was OK, and it was a treat to sit in the old hotel dining room, dusty from the trail. I headed east toward Kenosha Pass, first crossing over Red Hill Pass (9,993 feet):

    This one is little more than a high spot in the road, but it’s considered a pass. Then on to Kenosha (10,000 feet).

    To get home from here it was just as easy to go down the hill to Denver then to retrace my route to Frisco. The ride down to the edge of Denver is a nice road but busy and developed. I got on the freeways and fought through the usual wicked traffic in over-100 degree heat. I stopped often to sit in air conditioning and have something cool (like Dairy Queen). I got home after 380 miles in almost 11 hours – a long day for me.

    So now I’m home again. I didn’t get to Lizard Head Pass, but I got the rest (plus Cottonwood). Twenty-three passes in five days, covering just over 1,700 miles. Other than the passes that I went up and down on the same side, I rode only three short sections of road twice. I averaged 47-48 mpg on the trip – not bad. I rode some terrific roads, saw some spectacular scenery, and met some nice people.

    If you want advice, I would say to do Mt Evans, then cross Loveland, Vail and Tennessee Passes, ride all of Independence Pass, and then ride the San Juan Skyway (Red Mountain, Molas, and Coal Bank Passes). If you want to loop back, include Wolf Creek, Slumgullion, and Monarch. For a nice side trip, go up to the summit of Cottonwood. Trail Ridge Road is a good ride, but being in a park it is in a separate class. There are other terrific roads in the area even if they don’t rise above 10,000 feet.

    I was over Lizard Head Pass about eight years ago. I remember it as a really pretty road but not at all challenging . Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I didn’t realize it when I set out on this trip, but this is a terrific way to get used to a new bike. After some very challenging roads, I am much more confident on the GT. The bike has capabilities way beyond my ability to use them and is a very forgiving bike. We are getting used to each other. I look forward to many more sMiles with my new friend Greta.

    - Kate
    Last edited by Vagabird; 06-30-2011 at 02:32 PM. Reason: spelling
    '16 R1200RS

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. -- Mae West

  6. #6
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Santa Cruz CA
    Great ride! Great photos! Thanks for sharing!
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  7. #7
    RK Ryder
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    London, Ontario
    Thank you for sharing.
    Retired and riding my RTs, the '87 K100 & the '98 R1100 !
    Niagara Riders #298 & Knights of the Roundel #333

  8. #8
    "Jack" jacko's Avatar
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    May 2006
    "Jackass Hollow" Arvada, Colorado

    Shame on you for giving away our backyard secrets!
    Still a lot of snow in the high country isn't there.
    Jack Watson
    BMWMOA #125089
    2014 K1600GTL
    2013 C650GT

  9. #9
    Registered User naddy100's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Starkville, Mississippi


    Terrific ride report! Terrific bike. The report is also timely, because I'll be in Denver in August and I was looking for some routes.


  10. #10
    outstanding report and pics

    you're really putting some miles on that new scoot. how is the rear tire holding up? looks good in the pics, but am interested in how long they might last.

    also, when i get stuck behind motorhome hell in the twisties, i never follow. instead, just pull off, wait 5 minutes and it'll be a while before you see them again.

    thanks for posting this.

    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
    __________________________________________________ ________________________________
    '67 Trail 90 || '86 R80 G/SPD+ || '97 F650ST || '00 1150 GS || '06 HP2e || '07 Xchallenge || '14 Grom

  11. #11
    Registered User SeabeckS's Avatar
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    Oct 2005
    GPS (Greater Puget Sound)
    I think I just turned green...from envy!

    Thanks for sharing your ride with those spectacular photos!!!

    Bill Johnston

  12. #12
    Registered User kthflieger's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Columbia river gorge, Oregon
    Great ride - great job of putting it all together. When I did it, I took a whole season and never did Mt. Evans (except on a bicycle - but that doesn't cout!). Nice pics!
    "Wer reitet so spaet durch nacht und wind -es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind" -- Goethe
    R1200RT, F800GS
    '80 GL1100

  13. #13
    Lakemaker lakemaker's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Buena Park, California
    Very nice, Kate.. and congrats to you on the new bike!

  14. #14
    Certifiable User Mike_Philippens's Avatar
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    Feb 2011
    The Old Country
    Looks like I have another 'target' for my upcoming road trip in the US!
    -=- if you always see the road ahead of you, it's not worth the trip -=-

  15. #15
    God? What god? roborider's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Raleigh, NC
    If you're going to fail, that's the way to fail! Beautiful.
    Rob C. , Raleigh, NC
    '10 R12RT, R90/6
    2007 CBR600RR & 09 V-Star
    Suzuki DR 350

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