Day Three - Denver to Hotchkiss CO
Miles: 325
Elapsed Time: 12:53

The Hampton downtown was a nice hotel but it wasn’t conducive to a quick get-away. We had to have someone let us in the garage pull the bikes around and start packing. In the end we got out of there pretty quickly with all things considered and this would be the worst start of the trip. It was a little challenging finding the hotel the day earlier with all of the traffic and congestion, and now we were five bikes trying to stay together on busy downtown streets in rush hour. We managed to get out of town in very good order and we were on our way. We exited onto US6 for some much needed gas in the Harleys and even the short ride to get gas while off the interstate was great. Back on we rode west until we reached our exit point which was US6 over Loveland Pass. This was a new road for me although Steve had already conquered the Pass. It is hard to believe that until 1979 when the Eisenhower Tunnel was completed all traffic had to go over Loveland Pass and even today any hazardous shipments must take this route. This means the pass still gets a fair amount of use, and I found the road condition sub-par. The views were great and it’s worth a trip but nothing to write home about. We stopped at the top where the elevation is 11,990 feet. We were off to a pretty good start and everyone was riding well. We had to jump back onto I-70 for a short time before exiting again on C91 towards Leadville. I made some POIs at different spots along the way so that we could re-group if necessary but there was no need, everyone was together and we kept riding. South on C91 took us to Leadville where we didn’t stop but we rode a little slow through town to look around. I rode through here once but it was 1986, so obviously much had changed and Steve had passed this way as well previously. Once through Leadville we connected with US24 and turned up the speed a little as we headed towards C82. Before turning we took a quick break to adjust things before our ascent up Independence Pass. This road is much better than US6 and everyone began pushing themselves and we were really starting to get the feel of the curves and the mountains. It was a great ride up the mountain and everyone arrived at the top in great spirits.

As always there were many people at the top and also many bikers who always want to stop and talk. We did all of that including many staged and unstaged pictures and we were ready to move on. The ride down was equally good and soon we were in Aspen. I had a lunch spot picked out so we cruised through Aspen just admiring the nice homes and beautiful scenery. When we got to our turn off for
Woody Creek Tavern and wound our way along back roads everyone thought Steve and I had been there before and we were returning to a traditional spot. This was not the case. I happened to see the restaurant as I was routing the trip and I figured we would be hungry after Independence Pass and that was certainly case. Woody Creek Tavern is an eclectic place where the majority of patrons were on two wheels but their bikes had no motors. We split a pitcher of beer and had some good sandwiches. With full stomachs we got back on the bikes filled up with gas and continued on. C82 took us down to Carbondale where we picked up C133 and began the run along the Crystal River. Riding south on C133 we rode around the base of Mount Sopris a majestic peak just short of the 14k foot mark. Another 47 feet and it would have been far more famous. Capitol Peak can be seen just beyond Mt. Sopris and is 130 feet above famous 14k foot mark. So we were riding at a pretty good clip at this point following the Crystal River as it twists and turns through Redstone Canyon. Sebastian and Winzi were beginning to realize what Jim already knew which was the posted speed limit was not going to be well adhered to during this trip, There was not much traffic so passing was not often required. We stopped along the river near Hayes Creek Falls and walked around and looked at the sights. There was not much water flow down the falls but it a nice spot to sit and soak everything in. Next was McClure Pass which we climbed very quickly as it is only 8,800 feet in elevation, and the river and valley floor is 7,300 feet. Up on top of the pass we could see Chair and Ragged Mountains which we skirted around to their west. C133 continues to wind its way along the North Fork of the Gunnison River as it falls in elevation down to Somerset. We rode alongside the Paonia Reservoir as we continued onto Somerset and Paonia. In less than 10 miles we were in Hotchkiss checking into the motel. After we got situated we rode to the North rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. We had to ride on some gravel and with five bikes things got a little dusty but before long we were at the overlook. The views here are spectacular and I felt everyone was impressed. Steve and I visited this place in 2009 and we knew it would be a good place to see. After many pictures and realizing the extent of Jim’s fear of heights, which was significant, we got back on the bikes and rode back to the motel. We walked to dinner at PJ’s, a local spot where grilled Bar-B-Que is the speciality. We met Dave the owner and he showed us how he cooks the Texas stye BBQ. Pretty tasty. They had a local craft beer on tap but it was not an IPA and just average, so we only had one and walked back for the last beers on the porch. We had one last chore before we called it a night. Jim got on the horse for a ride to mimic Steve’s 2009 ride.