When I first started planning the route for this trip, I imagined I would spend a couple of days in Utah on my way back, and then pretty much take a straight line from there to home. I didn’t consider spending anytime in Colorado, except for a single stop for the night somewhere in the state. That would have been a mistake, and I’m glad I gave Colorado some thought after my wonderful days riding through Utah. Since I still had a few extra days to enjoy the roads before getting home, I checked for some options around this beautiful state, and after close to a full week here, I can say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made these past couple of months.
After arriving in Durango, having visited the beautiful Mesa Verde National Park on my way there, I spent the next few days riding through some of the most incredible roads in this whole journey. Highway 550, or “The Million Dollar Highway”, was a highlight, as expected, and the miles I rode between Silverton and Ouray will remain as a truly memorable moment, not only because I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic sunny, cloudless day to do it, but also because I was listening to an old live concert from the Allman Brothers Band along the way. Couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate soundtrack, I guess…
I decided to stay in Crested Butte for two nights, to enjoy a bit of that magical little town. My choice of hotel there helped me to make the decision, for I opted to stay at the Nordic Inn, a cozy little hotel that is superbly run by Kim and Ken, the quintessential West Colorado couple: amazing people, fantastic hosts and also fellow riders. I was happy to have met them, and they treated me as an old friend. I was completely impressed with Crested Butte, one of the few places I’ve visited during this whole trip that I could seriously consider living in. The town is very small, but it has a certain special, difficult to define, good vibe to it. I’m definitely coming back someday, this time in the winter and to stay a bit longer.
Kim and Ken suggested that I should take a detour and go visit Telluride, stopping along the way in Gateway to check a very special place out: the Canyon Resort and its extraordinary auto museum. I had never heard about it, probably because it is located in a very remote area of Colorado, so I was excited to go see it. I was blown away and really didn’t expect to see such a fantastic museum there. The resort and the car collection are the creations of John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel, who obviously has a great passion for cars and things that are well done. A good part of the American car industry history is being shown there, and it’s a must-see place if you are planning a visit to the southern part of Colorado. Telluride is another great little town, and there I was extremely well received by Kim and Ken’s friends, Rachel and her husband Ray (and little Nathalie too!). Thanks again for everything and such a warm and friendly hospitality!
I stopped for one night in little Redstone, a great night in a historical inn that used to be the quarters for miners in the 1800’s, then rode through some out-of-this-world roads and mountain passes to stop again at a very odd place, Blackhawk. I decided to stay there one night, just because it was close to Mount Evans and the highest paved road in the US (14,264 ft), but what I didn’t know is that is mainly a gambling town. Blackhawk almost became a ghost city, like many little towns around here, after the mines were closed around the early 1900’s, but somehow it got revived after limited gambling was approved to help the dying town. It is now a strange group of casinos which, at least to me, seemed out of place with all that fascinating nature surrounding them. In any case, it was just a quick stop and I had a good night’s sleep there.
In the early morning I was off to visit that famous “highest road”, in another picture-perfect morning. It’s something to be seen, with plenty of mountain goats and woodchucks around, living (almost) peacefully with the tourists, or at least with the few early morning ones. I really enjoyed the couple for hours I stayed close to the summit, and had another thrilling ride going down the mountain. My destination for the day was Colorado Springs, home to another very well known mountain, Pikes Peak. It’s only a hundred feet short than Mount Evans, but the ride up the there is even more exciting. The place is home to a very famous hill climb race since 1916 (!), and I heard about it when I was a teenager back in Brazil, so I was completely excited to finally get to know it. The Pikes Peak Highway is 14 miles long, has 156 turns and climbs over 4,720 ft from its start to the summit, at 14,110 ft. It’s difficult to express this experience in words, and I guess the best I can do here is to say it’s unforgettable. I got there at the very end of the day, with a beautiful combination of fading sunlight and drizzle, and very few cars or bikes on the road. A perfect ending to a perfect day.
Today is my final “rest day” in this journey, and I took the time to have new tires installed on my bike, change the oil and make sure it is ready for the final sprint to Florida, which I start this Sunday morning. From here, it will be a short visit to Phantom Canyon, a dirt road close by that used to be a twisty railroad bed, and then crunching the miles on the highways through New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. A few thousand miles more and I’m back home…
It’s a very mixed feeling right now, as I should have expected, since these past nine weeks on the road have been a life-changing experience that far surpasses everything I could have imagined before I left home, and part of me wants to keep on going. The other part longs for being reunited with my wife and my kids, whom I love and miss incredibly much. There’s also all the work I love to do: I have a long season of events ahead of me for this second semester of the year, and I’m excited to get back to it as well. If I have learned anything from this fantastic time on the road by myself, it is that life is all about balance. The road will always be there for me from now on, both as great memories from this trip and as dreams of the next ones that haven’t been planned yet, but I miss my beloved Nicole, I miss my family and it’s good to be back in a few days more. Get ready for a bearded Ricardo soon!