Day Three  Canon City, Colorado - Lake City, Colorado - 210 miles

After learning at dinner the night before that the charge at Royal Gorge was $14 per person regardless of the time spent there or whether or not you rode the incline we decided our glimpse of the bridge from the ridge the night before was enough.  We decided to head on toward Lake City.  We rode north on C9 towards Hartsel.  C9 follows the Currant Creek and the western side of Pike National Forest.  The road travels through open range leaving little place to pull over and enjoy the scenery.  The road was on good condition but had few twists and turns.  Once in Hartsel we headed west on US24 towards Buena Vista.  This road was very busy on this Sunday morning and we had to be aggressive in order to pass all of the traffic accumulating as we approached Trout Creek Pass.  Once over the pass we stopped on the side of the road and observed the "Castles" rock formation off in the distance.  Just before Trout Creek Pass US285 and US24 combine to climb over the pass.  Once on top, the highway coming down is called the Highway of the Fourteeners.  In the distance directly ahead the pointed summit of Mt. Princeton first appears, followed in succession to the right by Mts. Yale and Columbia. After 3/4 of a mile, just before the highway curves left, you then sight the sharp peak of Mt. Harvard (3rd highest peak in the Rockies), and to its right Mts. Missouri, Belford, and Oxford all higher than 14,000 feet.  We dropped down the mountain and into Johnson Village virtually at the base of Mt. Princeton.  Our plan was to pass through the fourteeners on Cottonwood Pass Road.  During our gas stop at Johnson Village we began talking with some other bikers about Cottonwood Pass Road.  I had also asked some people in the gas station about the condition of the road.  We got conflicting information.  The bikers told us the road was extremely difficult and in much worse shape than Phantom Canyon Road.  We began to discuss some alternate routes.  As car traffic began to pile up waiting to fuel up we decided to go into Buena Vista, pull out the map and discuss what we wanted to do.  As we took the 3-4 mile trip into Buena Vista I began to doubt the biker's assessment of the road.  When we pulled over I told Steve that guy was on a big Harley of some sort riding two up with almost zero ground clearance; of course he is not going to like anything that is less than ideal road conditions.  I didn't think he took our riding style into consideration, he was only offering advice from his point of view which was vastly different than ours.  Steve stated he was thinking the same thing and we decided to try the pass.  We couldn't have been more pleased.  The road on the way up (KMZ) was all paved and in very good condition.  As we approached the top, all of the fourteeners could be seen to the north and south of us.  The summit was a little crowded so we continued, looking for a less crowded spot.  At the summit the paved road turned to dirt that was actually in better shape then Phantom Canyon Road.  There were some big potholes but steering around them proved to be an easy task.  Our spot for stopping was just below the summit and offered beautiful views (KMZ).  At the base of the mountain the road turns back to asphalt and dead ends into the Taylor Park Reservoir (KMZ).  There we continued on toward Cumberland Pass and the Alpine Tunnel tour.  I was really looking forward to this portion of the trip.  As we turned onFR765 towards Tincup we were once again on dirt, and this portion of the road seemed in less than desirable shape.  Neither of us were quite ready for another 60 miles of dirt down to Gunnison even if it meant missing the Alpine Tunnel tour.  We stopped at a campground and asked if the dirt continued all the way down, and were told it did.  So we decided to go to Gunnison via FR742 and C135  both of which were paved.   FR742 goes through Taylor Canyon which is a popular rock climbing destination.  Before the intersection with C135 in the town of Almont the road parallels Taylor River offering some nice views.  C135 follows the Gunnison River down into the town itself.  There we headed west on US50 toward the Blue Mesa Reservoir.  On the east side of the reservoir C149 intersects US50. We headed south on C149 toward Lake City.  This section of road has wonderful sweeping curves as it approached Ninemile Hill and runs through the gulches Milkranch and Dutch.  We stopped at The Gate state campground along the Gunnison for a rest.  The afternoon rains were looming so we hightailed it to Lake City.  The Quiet Moose Motel is on the north side of town (KMZ), and as soon as we got checked in the skies opened up.  At night during the rain we ate at the restaurant/bar at the Quiet Moose.  The food was decent and the bar had darts and a pool table; what more could you ask for?