Putting New Mexico in my rearview mirror I crossed into Colorado, welcome sign photos complete I moved on. My route was from a South Eastern direction through the entire right half of the state. First stop was (and it was entirely by accident) the Great Sand Dunes national park. Did you know the largest sand dunes in North American can be found a couple hours from Denver? I didn't either so I stopped to take a look. I've never seen such a drastic shift in landscape in such a short amount of space. One minute your in the Rockies the next the Sahara. There was some kind of trickling "river" at the base of the dunes everyone was frolicking in - looked more like a creek of mud to me but the dunes were very impressive.
The skies began to brew up as I was leaving the dunes. Rain came on and off the rest of the afternoon which unfortunately made me push on through many cool little mountain towns without stopping for photos. One such town was Leadville. I really regret not snapping a few there but I would have gotten soaked (If you keep the bike over 45 MPH the fairing pushes the rain right over your head). There were periods of sun and I stopped to take advantage of them whenever I could. One such window came as I rounded a bend and found a picture perfect lake/mountain/woods combo (you can see it above).
With the rain pushing me away from Aspen (I wanted to visit Woody Creek, Hunter S. Thompson's home) I set my sights on Rocky Mountain National park. Glad I did because I got there right as the sun began to fall in the west and the scenery began to light up like neon. Elk. Did I mention the elk? Huge elk, huge elk everywhere. Snow. Did I mention the snow? I had been snowed on in New Mexico a few days prior but it melted as it touched the road. But here it was still pilled up in drifts of ten feet tall. As I climbed past the timberline the temp dropped dramatically. Icy spots on the road had to be avoided - it was the beginning of July. The images I captured up there attest to the drama of the place. Pick your superlative they were everywhere.
I found a warm bed in a road side cabin in Estes Park on the Eastern side of the Rockies. Turns out my little cabin was less than a mile from the hotel where they filmed "The Shining". After eating some great food and drinking a well deserved vodka at the towns local steakhouse. I took a walk under the moonless midnight sky. In Colorado the night sky is so plump with glowing stars that you begin to realize there are more stars then sky up there. The sense of depth is awe inspiring. Nothing about that state is small or understated and I love travelling the length of it's perfect twisting roads.
On the Eastern side of the Rockies your meet the great plains and getting back to Detroit you have to cover every square inch of those fuckers. I strapped everything down extra tight, found an empty back road heading East and gave the Roadqueen full spur. By midnight I was in Des Moines and by the following afternoon I was home. I did have one more dance with old Route 66 outside Odell, Illinois when I tripped across the Mother Road on it's Southern line out of Chicago. The town of Odell had restored the oldest Texaco station on 66. It operated from 1933 to 1999 - 66 years on Route 66. Cool stuff (if you’re a little funny in the head like me).
Back in my driveway in South Eastern Michigan I found an odometer reading of 3955 miles. I traveled through 10 states in 6 days, took over 350 photographs and met some fantastic people (Kevin and Kathy Patton from Minnesota whom I met eating tacos at the Taos Inn bar come to mind. Great people on a journey not unlike my own), experienced some of America's best 360 degree views, took on 4 seasons worth of weather, ate like a king (drank like one too a couple nights) and finished up with a 4 state drag race home.
I've always believed in the healing powers of the road. It's a place to clean out your mind, warm up your heart and stoke the soul. As much as I love the road the best thing about it to me is how it makes you appreciate what really matters back at home. If you get the chance, fill up the tank, grab an iPod, a camera, your sunglasses and GO. The gas will cost you but the memories are yours for free and you can keep them the rest of your life.