A 5,830 kms round trip to see the sights and drop in on the 2013 Super Tenere rally in Ouray, Colorado. Two-up with my wife, Jenny. We traveled as light as possible and stayed at motels. We knew we would potentially be encountering the whole range of weather condition and temperatures, so we left wearing all our layers with an empty tank bag and empty top box. We knew we would need the storage space for the layers as we took them off and no harm in having some spare room. That meant that we had one pannier each and what we were each prepared to carry.
18 Jun – Day 1.
We left Rocky at about 9:30 a.m. in cloudy humid weather – but it soon cooled down as we hit some heavy rain between Bragg Creek and Cochrane. The scenery along highway 22 from Rocky to Pincher Creek is spectacular in places.
Later we stopped for gas in Turner Valley and got talking to some other riders on their way to Alaska from Arizona, which is more or less where we were going.
Pincher Creek is known to be windy and we were not to be disappointed as we were blown around a bit as we drove past the numerous “severe crosswinds” road signs. lol.
Then when we got to Pincher Creek we took a walk to Walmart for snacks and on the way back said ‘Hi’ to some Harley dudes at the Ramada motel. They then rode to the Super 8 and were in reception when we got back there, so we got talking again only to find out they were also from Rocky! Small world as they say.
We were planning on having breakfast at 6:00 ish and on the road early and expecting a good ride through the mountains and across the Blackfoot reservation in Montana.
Ready to roll out of Rocky …
19 Jun – Day 2.
It was dull and overcast and soon started to rain in Pincher Creek and it was very wet crossing the border over Chief Mountain. The views are probably fantastic on a nice day! As it was with the low cloud, rain and mist we hardly saw anything. Visibility was down to maybe 50 ft at times. But when we started to descend into the Blackfoot reservation on the Montana side it brightened up.
We checked out the Museum of the Plains Indians in Browning, which was interesting and the weather gradually improved from there.
Once further in to Montana, the views were gradually more and more spectacular.
We arrived in Helena at about 3:00 pm in brilliant sunshine and 25c having out run the bad weather. However the forecast thunderstorms and high winds soon descended on Helena and we battened down for the night with my bike safely tucked in under the front entrance canopy.
By the time we went to bed it was raining heavily and the flags outside were horizontal and whipping in the strong winds.
20 Jun – Day 3.
Another early start with a long day ahead of us. We left Helena well before 7 am and headed for Yellowstone Park.
Very high winds riding down the valley to the pretty town of Ennis, Montana where we stopped for apple pie and a hot cup of tea – we’d been on the road for over two hours and it was still before 9:00 am although it felt like midday.
Some spectacular scenery, but cloudy and cold on the way in to Yellowstone. We rode through cold strong winds with the ambient temperature down to 4c at times.
We saw dozens and dozens of pronghorn antelopes on the plains of Montana.
And then bighorn sheep, swans, bison, and elk in and near Yellowstone along the Madison river valley. Madison river is apparently the place to fly fish – there were fishermen on every bend and we did see one fisherman with a brace of very large trout.
We rode through Madison County but not “the” Madison County as no bridges were apparent!
The Old Faithful geyser was spectacular and we only had to wait 1/2 hr or so for it to erupt. We got photos but I messed up getting video on my phone as apparently I’m technically challenged.
I had to pose for a picture on the way out Yellowstone, of course!
More great scenery as we rode down the west side of the Grand Teton range.
The ride on from Yellowstone was uneventful but I did find out later that we rode past the Klim building – I should have called in for a free sample!
We stopped in the town of Blackfoot for dinner and then rode on to Pocatello arriving at our motel at about 8:30. That’s when I found out that using a credit card at a US gas station isn’t as easy as I expected. I had to pre-authorize inside because we don’t have a zip code to enter at the pump. Later I managed to fool one pump with 12345 but that only worked the once.
21 Jun – Day 4
We left Pocatello about 8:30 am. A late start for us but we’d had a late night after a long day. Dry and sunny and 15c when we set off south on I-15 but looking to get on to the secondary highways.
The view across the valley from the motel in Pocatello;
We turned off east through Downey across great farm land and neat small farms. It was calm at first but it got windy later.
We stopped mid morning in Logan for a break and by then we were in built up suburbs. Next stop for lunch and gas was in the small town of Morgan back out in the country.
Our route avoided Salt Lake City and went through Heber City where we stopped for an ice cream – it was hot – and then through the heavily built up City of Ogden toward Provo, swinging east onto Hwy 6 through the mountains and into the Utah desert. Somewhere near Springville before Hwy 6 we stopped and reduced our clothing to the minimum and opened all our vents. It was 35c.
Hwy 6 then took us through the mountains, red rock bluffs and past Utah coal mines, then sand coloured bluffs and rock outcrops before dropping down to the valley floor from Soldier Summit to the desert. 15 miles from Soldier Summit another Tenere rider that we know who was also heading for Ouray had broken his leg when his bike fell on him on a mountain gravel trail. Fortunately he was not riding alone and although he did get separated from his buddy for a while he wasn’t on his own for long.
We stopped for a photo op at the derelict Woodside gas station, once the home to 300 people after gold was discovered there.
Not long from there to overnight at the superb River Terrace motel in Green River.
At this point we were in to the mainly tourism part of our trip with less demanding kms to cover and more time to explore the sights.
22 Jun – Day 5
We headed east out of Green River on the old un-maintained highway to Cisco then turned south on the scenic back route through the Arches National Park to Moab.
Superb scenery with the road sweeping through canyons and along the Colorado River all the way to Moab.
On the way down we stopped at Wilson’s rock – a spectacular rock arch. We were persuaded to buy some traditional Navajo necklaces from a nice young Navajo girl called Chrissie. She guaranteed she makes it all herself!
Quick coffee/juice and muffin break at the “Love Muffin” cafe in Moab then south to Monticello. Lunch and gas stop and stretch our legs. Chatted to another rider on a V-Strom 650 – Bryan from Colorado on his way back to Denver via Durango.
Lots of stops from then on for breathtaking scenic photo’s that will never do justice to the reality. My ‘flaky’ bike cam (the replacement didn’t arrive in time for this trip) actually worked for some of Arches and Monument Valley so we have some video footage, which was a bonus.
We arrived at the View Motel on the Navajo reservation in Monument Valley mid afternoon, so we had plenty of time to check out the scenery, the museum and the gift shop.
While I was unloading our gear an older guy came up and was asking about the trip and so on. He started telling me how he had worked on the land deal for the BMW factory in South Carolina. Later I realized he must have thought my bike was a BMW.
We relaxed on our balcony in the evening and watched the sun set over the red rocks and buttes of Monument Valley.
23 Jun – Day 6
We were up at 5:00 am to catch the sunrise. Fantastic!
We then had a leisurely breakfast overlooking Monument Valley – looking at Left Mitten, Right Mitten and Merrick buttes. We had a walk around the local area and another look at the gift shop where we picked up some t-shirts and a book. It was full of the usual tourist fair but also lots of very good quality Navajo crafts, from arrows and knives to beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry.
We loaded up and hit the road about 10:00 am, heading south to Kayenta and gas.
One thing about travelling on a bike is the number of people that talk to you. Of course other bikers are no surprise really but almost every stop an old guy or lady, young couples with kids and so on are fascinated to ask where we’re from and where we’re going – especially when they see ‘Alberta’ on the registration plates. Also, I think I’m more approachable when Jenny is with me.
We got talking to an older Harley biker in Kayenta who’s 2004 Harley was in immaculate showroom condition. He also thought my bike was a BMW, so this time I was ready and corrected him, pointing out the Yamaha tuning forks. He was amazed for some reason.
From Kayenta we headed off to The ‘Four Corners’ monument which lies at the intersection of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, & Colorado, so we officially rode through four States that day. We had the obligatory photo op. at the monument and I bought a t-shirt.
One older Navajo guy was very interested in our travels and my bike and couldn’t believe we’d traveled two-up from Canada. Four Corners is really just a custom built tourist trap but when you’re close by and may never go there again it’s worth it to go just once.
It was a fairly short ride on from there to stay the night in Cortez and recharge ready for an early start the following day as we would be heading to Mesa Verde.
Unfortunately, the bike video camera was totally uncooperative, so no video that day.
We had reached our southern most point of the entire trip in Kayenta, Arizona earlier in the day.
24 Jun – Day 7
We had a great ride to Ouray (Switzerland of America) from Cortez via Mesa Verde.
The Mesa Verde park was very hot and arid. We got there early in the morning before the crowds and the worst of the heat, but by the time we left, it was just sizzling and the main car parks were full.
The cliff dwellings of the ancient Puebloan Indians (Anasazi) were amazing. Some are just wedged onto ledges and some large villages are built under impressive overhanging cliffs. The Indians climbed the cliffs to get to their crops etc. by the use of toe and finger holds!
We both really enjoyed looking at all the sites – some from over looks and one set of dwellings that we were able walk around – fantastic. You could easily spend a week there if it’s your thing. They still don’t know why the ancient Pueblo Indians chose to live in the cliff dwellings or why they abandoned them.
Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass and into Ouray via the Million Dollar Highway was a fantastic ride. Awesome scenery and reminded me of the ‘big bend’ south of the Columbia Icefields on the Icefields Parkway. Nearer Ouray the Million Dollar Highway is sheer drop offs on one side on the ride down into the town with numerous extremely tight hairpin bends.
Jenny didn’t enjoy that part. The drop off was on the other side of the highway to us but she said she didn’t fancy going back up that way when she would be right next to the drop offs with no barriers for the most part. I did video the ride up a few days later when we went to Ironton ghost town but it looks like no big deal on the video.
I enjoyed all of the ride from Durango through Silverton to Ouray so much I guess I forgot to stop and take pictures!
Ouray is a very nice place though.
That evening there was a meet and greet at the Koa campground south of Ouray where most of the rally attendees were camping. We met some people we knew from last year in Whitehorse, but there were many new faces.
There had been around 20 Super Tenere’s in Whitehorse but there were more that double that in Ouray.
25 Jun – Day 8
We spent the very hot day exploring Ouray which is an old mining town. A picturesque setting in the mountains with a lot of very nice houses, cabins and so on.
Everything we did that day was within walking distance of our motel on the northern edge of the town.
Surprisingly they have a very good waterfall and an interesting box canyon/waterfall right in the town. Various old mining sites and tunnels, etc.
The town itself is very historic and enjoyable to visit, so we had a good day and didn’t even start my bike!
We started and ended the day with a very nice walk along the banks of the Uncompahgre river that runs through the town and meandered right past our room at the Hot Springs Motel.
26 Jun – Day 9
We rode to Telluride and on to Ophir, both in the next valley. Nothing but fantastic scenery all the way there and back.
In Ophir, we rode up the Ophir pass for a few kilometers just to say we’d been on the pass really as we had no intention of riding back over the mountain to Ouray by that route – I would be happy to ride it but not two-up – at least not for the first time.
The route to Ophir from Ouray is 25 km up and over the ridge on a rough jeep trail vs. 85 kms of very picturesque highway.
At least three bikes had received major repairs so far – a burned out clutch, a ripped off oil pan and a smashed windshield, mirror, fairing combination. Those were the incidents that I was aware of anyway. For me, I knew that I needed to ride home and I know that if I want to wreck my bike, I can do that in Rocky!
There were other couples at the rally but they had trailered their bikes as had some of the other riders. For us, the trip was the adventure. I see the point of having a 350cc bike that would be ideal for the mountain trails and high passes and trailering it but if you own a 1200cc “Adventure” bike the whole point to me is that you don’t need to trailer it anywhere (although you’re also more limited off-road).
In Telluride we were going to ride the free Gondola from the town of Telluride to Telluride Mountain Ski Resort but although the gondola is free, parking was non-existent or permit only. We inquired at a couple of places as we had previously been told bikes could park for free. But no-one we asked could confirm that and we didn’t want the hassle of being towed or getting a ticket, so we bailed on the gondola idea.
Telluride is a popular tourist destination and was very busy the day we were there.
Plan B was a ride to Montrose and a visit to the Ute Indian museum for the remainder of the day. Interesting info about the Utes who originally lived in the valley with their leader, Chief Ouray. Utah is named for the Ute tribe.
After that, back to Ouray for dinner on the roof top patio of the Ouray Brewing Co. Excellent beer brewed on the premises and a really good meal. We also bought t-shirts.
Perfect weather, cold beer, good food, excellent service and great company. It really felt like another day in paradise.
Jun 27 – Day 10
Early breakfast and a visit to Ironton ghost town in the morning. This started with a ride through town and up the Million Dollar Highway through the hairpins followed by a short easy gravel trail to Ironton. Apparently someone lived in the town up until the sixties but now it’s deserted.
Our trip to Ironton was followed by a visit to the Ouray library to get the use of a computer to see if I managed to record any video over the previous two days. I had, so I was pleased that the camera had been co-operating. I couldn’t see what video I had on the camera, which doesn’t have it’s own screen and the library computer didn’t have a movie player. But at least I had files!
After that we went back to the motel did some reorganizing and packing and spent an hour or so in the town hot springs, only five minutes walk from the motel – very relaxing.
This was followed by the Super Tenere BBQ at the Koa campground.
A great time BS’ing and meeting new people from all over the continent.
After the BBQ there was a raffle and I was fortunate to win a great prize – a Klim Latitude jacket and pants, courtesy of Klim!!
They had some great prizes from t-shirts to Jesse pannier systems, Akropovic exhaust systems and so on. A very good evening.
28 Jun – Day 11
We headed out early for the long drive to Rawlins. A fairly straightforward route, mostly secondary highway with some interstate.
The route along the Colorado River north east out of Pallisade was a pleasant surprise; busy highway but twists and turns and tunnels and bridges as it wound it’s way down the Colorado river valley. We made good time but that day was a long leg and it was very hot.
A gas station in Parachute was our first stop and we had lunch at a picnic area.
Across the road was a motel with a giant motorcycle sculpture. As you can see, I put an Albertadualsport sticker on it.
We saw 41c again in the afternoon and stopped for ice-cream and shade in Meeker.
Just after crossing into Wyoming, near the town of Baggs, we crossed the “Overland Trail”, stagecoach trail.
So much history to see.
Last stop of the day was for a break about an hour out of Rawlins. We stretched our legs at a derelict gas station where they were selling wholesale fireworks.
The lady talked to me about our trip and was excited to find out that I was born in Wales as her mother is also Welsh.
Other than that, nothing special about Rawlins!
In hindsight and given more time it would have been nice to follow the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway north from Delta but we didn’t have time to do that.
There were many tough decisions we had to make on the trip – it is impossible to see and do everything.
29 Jun – Day 12
The route to Billings was mostly highway – mile upon mile of straight open road at highway speeds through dry sage brush covered countryside and very little traffic.
The first part of highway 220 follows the Oregon Trail, so that was interesting.
Later we stopped for a snack and gas in Casper then followed I25 through Buffalo, where we stopped for lunch at the “Busy Bee” cafe.
Then on through Sheridan into Montana.
We were aiming for the Little Big Horn battlefield (Custer’s Last Stand) and by the time we got there it was very hot again. We spent a couple of hours checking out the battlefield, which we both found very interesting and informative.
A 7th Cavalry Monument was erected on the hill in 1879.
And there is also an Indian Memorial that was erected in 1991 near Last Stand Hill in honour of the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors that died in the battle.
They don’t know the number of Indians that died as they carried away their dead, but estimates are as high as 300. Of Custer’s troops 16 officers and 242 troopers were killed.
The Little Big Horn is not far from Billings and we arrived at the motel in the early evening.
30 Jun – Day 13
The route to Lethbridge was more of the same with dry open prairie, cattle ranches, many, many Pronghorns and a stop to visit the Lewis and Clark exhibition in Great Falls.
A very good exhibit on the banks of the Snake River, the The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center was a place of great interest.
This is where I learned about the Mandan Indians who reputedly spoke Welsh and descended from Prince Madoc, a Welsh prince who came to North America in 1170 – about 300 years before Columbus.
Unfortunately most of the Mandans were wiped out by smallpox, so there’s no proof of this fascinating chapter in North America’s history. However they are light-skinned and have grey/blue eyes. Also they built “bull boats” that are remarkably like Welsh “coracles”.
Mandan bull boat;
And most convincing to me, Lewis and Clark had a Welshman in their expedition who apparently translated for them.
More on the Welsh Indians; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandan
Anyway back to reality …
We had an enjoyable ride from Great Falls to Lethbridge via the Del Bonita border crossing.
The US customs shed is a large modern building bristling with cameras, sensors, and aerials. It is surrounded by high fencing and vehicles must approach through chicanes.
In stark contrast, the Canadian side is basically a garden shed.
1 Jul – Day 14 – Canada Day.
Rocky Mountain House
Home to Rocky through the RCMP checkpoints near High River (keeping the home owners out of their flooded homes) via lunch at our son’s home in Calgary and then following the Cowboy Trail along highway 22 home. We went back through Cochrane in 30c+ heat and glorious sunshine reflecting on the torrential rain there 14 days earlier.
We spent 3 days in Ouray, Colorado but other than that we did 5 – 600 kms a day for a total round trip of just over 5,830 kms.
Monument Valley and the Four Corners, Yellowstone National Park, Arches National Park, the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings, the Ute Indian museum, Custer’s Last Stand, and the Lewis & Clark expedition museum were highlights of the trip.
We left Rocky and were caught in the storm that flooded Calgary but got off fairly lightly considering the damage done in Calgary and High River. We out-ran a hail storm as we went through Montana on the way south, survived 41 centigrade in the desert and managed to thread the eye of the needle between two major thunderstorms in Wyoming on the way home.
Overall we had a great trip and could have set off again the next day and gone round again.
It’s called adventure riding for good reason as there are many more adventures to be had!
(I hope you enjoyed the RR)