Colorado Walkabout

View of Mt. Princeton from the Buena Vista KOAI don’t do well toward the end of winter. It’s nice that we can ride at least once every month through winter on the High Plains of Colorado, but short cold days don’t allow for general multi-day wanderings and sleeping under the stars. It seems like the closer we get to full-blown summer riding, the more agitated I become. Call it “that time of the year” for me. One wrong word can, and did, send me over the edge.

After a week of agonizing over the error of my ways and worrying that I was going to make life-changing decisions that I’d regret, I was blessed with a three-day forecast of temps in the eighties. While I would have preferred a few weeks on the road, I was happy to take off with my sleeping bag and no real plan on a Tuesday morning.

Because it’s still a little cold in the mountains early in the morning, and I didn’t want to deal with Denver traffic, I decided to head south on the eastern side of the city and then turn west somewhere around Colorado Springs. Thinking of a friend’s home I’d be passing near, I made contact and plans to stop.

While eastern Colorado lacks curves, I enjoyed the three hour ride south. Traveling where I’ve never been, even if it is close to home, mimics a major road trip. I love the feeling of riding into small towns I’ve never visited, like a cowgirl roaming the Old West. I got to my first stop point just before noon and waited while my friend rode into town to meet me. Back out even further onto the plains, and the nice quiet evening with my friends helped get my head to a better place.

On Wednesday morning, it was time to head up into the mountains and to one of my favorite spots to camp. There’s nothing like twisting on the throttle through the canyons to put a big smile on my face and joy in my heart. There’s just something about the roar of the Big Shots and the steep lean angles, from one side to the other, that makes all my cares disappear.

After crossing South Park on Route 24, I arrived at the KOA in Buena Vista. I love this campground. There isn’t a bad Motorcycle at cabin at KOAspot in the place, and the views are incredible. Because it was still pretty cool in the mountains and there were rain showers, I sprung for one of their cabins. After unpacking my bike (actually just taking the sleeping bag off the handlebars and throwing it on the bunk), I rode into town to find the hot springs and get dinner.

Cottonwood Hot Springs is west of town, and they have several pools of varying temperatures. There were a few couples there, but because it was the off-season still, I had a pool to myself. It was amazing. When it got too hot in one pool, I changed to another to cool down a bit. Then back to a much warmer one. Any remaining troubles soaked out of my body and were gone.

Dinner was at Quincy’s, one of my favorite places. I love that they only have one thing on the menu: filet mignon. You get a filet, a baked potato, and a salad with their house dressing. Your only choices are size of the steak, butter and/or sour cream, and how you want the steak cooked. The trade-off for a lack of selection is an incredible price. If I can afford it, almost anyone can. And it’s good. After that it was back to the campground for a peaceful evening under the stars.

Thursday morning I stopped in town for gasoline and breakfast. I stumbled upon a new diner behind the gas station in Johnson Village that had opened up the day before: The Smoke Shack. A very energetic owner welcomed customers and sat down to talk with me. I had the smoked corned beef hash, which was made with local produce: beets, potatoes and onions. At first I wasn’t crazy about the beets in the mix, but the hash was excellent. They also have local trout on the menu, although smoked trout would only be available as a special from time to time. Pulled pork was on the board as a lunch special. I’ll definitely be back.

Scenic view near Climax, COThe road took me through Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States. The view of snow covered peaks from the center of town was incredible, but I had no reason to stop and kept riding on through. Climax was the next town, and just north of Climax is this small turn off that I always say I won’t stop at but I always do. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of my motorcycle in front of the small lake with the jagged peaks in the background. I love that spot.

Although the trip was winding down, I still enjoyed the freedom of the road with a trip through the old mining and now gambling towns of Central City and Blackhawk. From there it was on up to Nederland, home of the Frozen Dead Guy, and across the Peak to Peak Highway into Estes Park. I meandered around Estes for a little while then dropped back down to the Front Range into the outskirts of Loveland, across to Masonville, Horsetooth, and finally down into Fort Collins.

And this is why I moved to Colorado. My little three-day jaunt cost me almost nothing and took me over some of the best roads in the country. With my mind cleared, I was able to come home, reconcile where needed, and get back to my awesome life. I’ll be back in Buena Vista soon. While there I reserved the best campsite in the campground for late June. I can’t wait!

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