Day Two- Kit Caron CO to Hotchkiss CO - 420 miles

After the long, fairly boring ride the day before we got up early and were eager to ride. Shepp's Drive-Inn didn't open for breakfast until 8:00, and we figured to be well on our way to Colorado Springs by the time 8;00 rolled around.  As it turned out we were just going through Rush CO at 8:00 and we decided to stop for breakfast at the Rush Café.  It was a good breakfast, and we suited back up and hauled you know what towards Colorado Springs.  In just a little over a half an hour we hit US24 and progressed through Colorado Springs on our way to Manitou Springs.  This is the home of the Pike's Peak Railroad and just a generally touristy little town.  We have been through here a number of times on our trips as well as trips with our family.  This year, like many others we stopped at the Royal Tavern for a beer.  We didn't plan this year all that great having arrived at 10:00 in the morning local time.  We decided that it was noon back home and that having one this early was really ok.  After all, it was a tradition dating back to my first time through in 1986.  Back on the bikes we headed north and west on US24 through some nice twisties as we worked our way towards Woodland Park.  We were also climbing in elevation going from 6400 ft at Royal Tavern to over 8500 ft at Woodland Park.  The ascent continues until we reach Ute Pass that sits just west of Divide CO and is at 9200 ft.  We stayed on US24 dropping down in elevation a little before climbing back up and crossing Wilkerson Pass at 9500 ft.  This marks the eastern boundary of South Park and is the beginning of the Pike National Forest.  Going through the National Forest we pass through Hartsel which is the geographic center of Colorado and then over the southern end of the Mosquito Range of Mountains at Trout Creek Pass.  Coming down the mountain the Collegiate Mountain range comes into view as we cross the Arkansas River and head into Johnson Village and Buena Vista.  We stopped for gas in Johnson Village and quickly got going again as we knew we were getting into some good riding areas.  Headed north on US24 we stopped along the Arkansas River right at the base of Mt Harvard.  A number of kayakers were enjoying the river as we stopped for a break.  They must have been dressed warm as a quick hand in the water showed just how the cold the water was.  Continuing north on US24 we turned west onto CO82 in Balltown and started our ascent on Independence Pass.  The road is nice and twisty as we rode up the mountain with La Plata Peak on our left and Mt Ebert on our right.  The closer we got to the pass the tighter the turns got with at least three full 180º turns.  The road close to the top is really quite narrow and perhaps the reason why on goggle maps and other similar internet based programs it won't connect through Independence Pass.  We stopped at the top as we have one more than one occasion traveled this stretch, but I had not been on top since 1995.  There were many bikers on the summit, including a large group from Germany on rented Harleys.  Going down was just as much fun as going up, the roads were great and not quite as narrow.  We reached Aspen just before 3:00 and made a quick stop at a Radio Shack to pick up a universal battery charger for my camera because I forgot mine.  We didn't waste too much time, and we were back on our way.  Aspen is nice but not our cup of tea when motorcycling.  We stayed on CO82 and blasted up to Carbondale where we turned south on CO133.  Steve had been this way before but it was my first time.  The road out of Carbondale is along the Crystal River and just about perfect.  It starts by going up McClure Pass We didn't ride all that fast as we were looking for a stop along the river.  We finally came upon a good place, and we took a little break to get a closer look at the river.  We continued on for only another 10 minutes before we spotted another place that was worthwhile; Hayes Creek Falls.  It was 4:30 in the afternoon and we still had some riding to do, so we got after it on the way to Hotchkiss.  Arriving in Hotchkiss around 5:30 we checked into our motel, found it to be much nicer on the inside than what one would have by looking on the outside.  We didn't mess around as we were quickly back on our steeds to head south to the North rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  We had been to the canyon on the southern side in 2001, but this side offered a much better view.  We left Hotchkiss around 6:30 and it took us a little more than a half an hour to reach our first destination on the westernmost point of the trail.  We got out and walked a short distance to an overlook that was simply spectacular.  Since the north rim is not really a part of the park proper there are very few people, and we were completely by ourselves.  We went only a short distance to the east as it was starting to get late.  The gravel road has an eastern loop as well as the western loop, but we stopped well short of that and looked around a little more and decided to head back before it got late.  CO92 that goes from Hotchkiss through Crawford and down to Black Canyon Road is also a good riding road and we were able to cruise at a pretty good clip.  We were back at a quarter after 9 and knocked as much dirt off of our bikes as we could before calling it a night.