Subject: WanderRockies 6 - Aurora, Colorado
Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2000 17:06:54 -0700
The end of a rally is a study in dissolution. Like radioactivity being cast off of fissionable material, elements of the composite that is a rally imperceptibly depart the total mass. The earliest outriders leave before dawn. By the first warmth of the sun, a steady, if singular, stream of riders departs the town. Even with these quiet (mostly BMW) motorcycles, the steady whine of an engine climbing through the gears echoes off the hills surrounding the town. The rally isotope decays further. The remaining cluster is smaller, but still a critical mass of fun and friendship until some unpredictable moment when 'the rally' is over and only memories remain. The last rider glides away and the history books sigh as they fondly close this chapter.
After four restful days, we awoke with anticipation
for the next stages of what are now two separate trips. Rebecca has a plane
to catch, 250 miles away, so we saddle up and join the early outflow. North
again through Redstone and continue beyond to follow the Crystal River
which looks like any advertisement you've ever seen of the "perfect mountain
cascade" racing beside cliffs and tickling the roots of trees. Even in
July, here the morning shadows keep the cold night air in the tight walled
valley and our motorcycle heated hand grips are a welcome indulgence.
We pass near Marble, where a now abandoned quarry produced the marble stone for the Tomb of the Unknown. I believe no other stone was taken from here, so that monument is unique in its construction. Marble is also the end of the road which leads to Schofield Pass. Although some maps do not show the road going through to Crested Butte, it does, but not before it crosses several cosmic black holes and reality vortexes. More than a few dirt riders who have been lulled by what are unpaved highways through the Rockies have been humbled by Schofield. It is 'not recommended' even for 4-wheel drive.
We are content for our off road adventure with the three miles of gravel where CO133 and the North Fork of the Gunnison River argued. (The river won, and the DOT is trying to make friends again.) There is always one unexpected, unavoidable dirt road in every trip I take ...
Quick breakfast in the Glenwood Cafe warms us after
our exit from the shadowed canyons. The great heated springs mineral pool
of the Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs is crowded with splashing children.
Once long ago, 'taking the waters' was considered to be medicinal. Now
they largely act as an analgesic respite for harried parents.
I70 through Glenwood Canyon is one of the few sections of the Interstate system that is both scenic and fun to ride. The 18 miles of curves are tight enough to really need the 50 mph speed limit - that is, if you are also trying to enjoy the views of the dozens of rafts paddling through the rapids. The inflated rafts are passionate pink vinyl with screaming yellow paddles and stand out garishly against the swirling green water, yet somehow they do not disturb the serenity of the canyon. The sunburned pink paddlers screaming from the chill of splashed water are another matter, however.
Just west of the town of Eagle I believe I see an eagle soar out of a field near the road and swoop on the thermal currents toward a stand of trees. Too large to be a hawk and too light colored to be a raven, it may have been a young namesake for the town. It eyes us briefly, then glides away. We glide on.
It has been three summers since I've come this way, yet it seems that Vail has grown again by half. What happened? Wild yeast explosion? Or has the old American equation established itself here: commercialism begets itself. To my eye, Vail is losing its charm as 'charming' new 'rustic' developments are erected.
Finally east of the divide we begin the rapid descent
to the flatlands. From the Eisenhower Tunnel through the continental divide
to Denver, we will drop further in elevation than Denver is above sea level.
As I child I heard Denver was the "Mile High City" and envisioned this
tall pillar with a city on top. Such disappointment to find not only no
pillar, but that the city isn't even in the mountains. It is on the flat
of the Great Prairie.
One last amusing juxtaposition comes at the exit to Lookout Mountain on the ridge above the city. To the left: Buffalo Bill's Grave Monument. To the right: the Buffalo Herd Preserve. Both the native ruminant of the prairie and its greatest scourge have been relegated to the high country - not on the plains where their drama played.
With the magnificent Front Range in our mirrors,
we arrive in Aurora to park Rebecca's bike in the graciously offered garage
of friendly LDRiders Brad and Wanda Hogue. Apparently not many travelers
arrive at major airports by motorcycle. As I drop Rebecca at the tented
castle of Denver International, we get strange looks from waiting passengers,
and an airport policeman 'casually' strolls by for a closer look.
Rebecca comments that the day has gone quickly and smoothly. I laughingly remind her that not long ago she balked at the idea of more than 200 miles in a day. Now she does that before noon and laments not being able to ride further with me. Motorcycles can do that to you.
At the parking toll booth exit, the sign on the gate says "cars only. no motorcycles or bicycles". Woulda been a better idea to put it on the entrance ... eh? But I ignore it and still get a smile from the toll girl. Yes, it has been a day worth smiling.
Paonia CO133 I70 US6 I25 I225 Aurora
Sam Lepore, San Francisco