Thursday Day 7 Dirt II

Day 2 started early at the Cuba Lodge, with breakfast at the cafe across the street. We were on the road by 0800 streaming toward out next dirt adventure. We had studied the map and in view of our 200+ mile route for the day we had decided to ride the dirt slowly enough to enjoy it and stop for pictures when we wanted, and peal off onto pavement when we felt we'd had enough. I missed a turn early on and we covered 10 miles of pavement only to turn around and ride back into Cuba to catch the right road. When the right road 128, turned into dirt we paused to gape at the fog and the beauty of the trees, and to get all our warm gear on, it was 45F. Shortly after moving on down the dirt road we entered a beautiful area of trees, and flowers with scenic rocks exposed. The road was smooth and damp. Good grip and no dust. Excellent.
We had a couple nice hours following fire roads. I missed the turn onto CO 144 and took us seven dirt miles out of the way, but we got to see large rock formation, which was not supposed to be on our path, that looked like a big insect carcass crossed with and elephant. Yes, that is Jeff standing in front of the rock. Big rock. Shortly after leaving the big rock I discovered I had missed the turn so we got to turn around and see the big rock again on our way back.
W We made our properly scheduled left turn onto FR144, a nice dirt road that switched back a forth between level road, and bumpy rutted two track. We bumped along and eventually went back after Don when he stopped to take a picture. I feared the worst and almost busted my ass twice flying back along the ruts and pits until I saw him chortling happily up the road. When we regained Jeff's position was paused at the spot pictured left to admire the scenery, eat power bars and drink water and Gatorade, and to heed the unceasing call of nature. What a nice spot. If you look out into the distance of the road you can see the two track separates a little and the road gets bumpier and rockier. We were read to hit it!

Yes, that's CO county road 144.

It was only described as "very steep and rocky" on the mountain bike continental divide route sheet. We ran into some big rocks but climbed the first hill anyway. While riding back to where Jeff and Don were I fell over on the road while trying to find a place to put my foot down. Fortunately the handguards and racks did their jobs, only some scratches on the right E21 saddle bag. We continued on but the road just got worse. For a way the best line was along the outside of the left track, a foot or two from the edge of the mountain. We pressed on but the 'road' got rockier and steeper. Head size rocks and boulders jutting from the ground formed the roughest tract of land ever graced by the term 'road'.

We finally stopped and checked the undersides of the bikes for damage and I decided to go on ahead and see if it got any better. Nope. On dirt bikes this would have been good fun, or even a non-laden KLR. But we were carrying two weeks worth of luggage and camping gear and this road was just too rough on machines that constituted our rides 2000 miles home. Rather than complete the 4-6 miles of this indicated on the rout sheet we turned around and headed back down 144 to rejoin FR315 and then to 103. We followed that out the pavement (passing the big elephant-inspect rock again). We paused to put on the rain gear again. The sky just wasn't being very friendly to us on this trip.

We hit pavement just a few miles from Coyote and decided to regroup and plan the rest of the day over lunch. Unfortunately the power was out at every building for miles around and we decided to eat a power bar and head for Chama to see the historic narrow gauge railroad. On the way we lucked out by crossing a narrow dam on a state highway that had unceremoniously turned to dirt without the GPS's knowledge. The dam and its lake were as scenic as they were unexpected. Remote and unpopulated too. We stopped for ten or fifteen minutes and never saw another vehicle.

We hit pavement just a few miles from Coyote and decided to regroup and plan the rest of the day over lunch. Unfortunately the power was out at every building for miles around and we decided to eat a power bar and head for Chama to see the historic narrow guage railroad. On the way we lucked out by crossing a narrow dam on a state hiway that had unceremoniously turned to dirt without the GPS's knowledge. The dam and it's lake were as scenic as they were unexpected. Remote and unpopulated too. We stopped for ten or fifteen minutes and never saw another vehicle. We stopped in a little town about 10 miles from Chama to get an H4 headlight bulb to replace one in the Strom and the friendly proprietor working away on an old tractor happened to be the county commissioner. We had some good conversation, installed the bulb and headed up the road to El Alamo, a cafe he had recommended. Having had my fill of southwestern/TexMex I was pleased to find a french dip sandwich on the menu and I jumped on it.

The narrow guage railway and train station at Chama was an unexpected delight. Jeff was a font of knowledge about the areas we were traveling and played tour guide quite a bit (thanks Jeff!) and this was one of the jewels we got to see because of it. They had engines, cabooses, and really cool snowplow/blower units that looked like they would eat you an not even notice. We got to climb around on some of the cars and try as I might I could not escape the rain by stealing a caboose. There were retired volunteers on hand to recount the glory days of the railroad and to tell us about the restoration work that is being done by volunteers a little at a time. If you are ever in the area check it out.

We had decided at lunch to continue on to Durango that that night; don suggesting a nice dinner in the historic downtown and me rabid to get a new PC card modem to continue my posts after losing (Doh!) the dongle for my old modem. So we busted on out to Durango in heavy rain and lots of dirt mist thrown up by the other vehicles. Although the rain sucked there was a bright spot to be seen every once and a while.

After reaching Durango we looked for a hotel in the downtown area to find that no roll-a-way beds were available and ended up punting back to the Super 8 a couple miles away. I got the only available PC card modem at a local Office Depot. Side note: We had checked Wal-Mart for the modem first and they had all manner of computer peripherals -- except PC card modems. When we asked where we might get one in Durango we were told by the sales assistant on the floor that no one sold computers in Durango. "Yes they do" Jeff replied. But the attendant just stood there flat footed and stuck to his story. The cashier pointed Jeff to an Office Depot (the sales guy had denied existed) that was all of 3 miles away.

An inspection of my chain showed that it had begun to lose rollers (Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!). So the chain and breaker purchased and cut to the proper 106 link length in Albuquerque as an afterthought were pressed into duty. Thankfully Jeff and Don had done this before and gave me a lot of help getting the new chain on. Having successfully dodged a desparately lonely and long winded V-Strom rider that had commandeered Jeff upon first sight we skedaddled downtown for a good steak dinner. After much wining about not wanting to wear my sandals (or Cat Piss Boots) downtown Jeff lent me his deck shoes just to shut me up and we were off. The cat piss boots had really come into their own and had to spend the night in the bathroom.