As a friend told me just the other day "motorcycle riding is your therapy". I must say that I have to agree. I love to get on Harley Davidson Street Glide and head out on the open road. It helps me to disconnect from the pressure of work and daily life. It's even more therapeutic when I can get away for a few days on a cross-country trip.
Last September I was able to take some time off and hit the road. I had heard about the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado earlier in the year from a friend. I did some research on the highway and the surrounding area and knew I had to travel it on this trip.
I decided to ride from my home in Iowa City, IA to Sedona, AZ riding through Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado. I did take a minor detour through the Southeast corner of Nebraska so that I could add the state to my 'States Ridden List'.
The first day of my ride was relatively short. I rode to Bethany, Mo taking mostly 2 lane roads. The weather was a little cool and overcast but, it was a relaxing first days ride without much traffic. The hills, woods and fields of Southern Iowa and Northern Missouri provided the scenery.
The next morning was cool with bright sunshine. I jumped on I35 and headed South to US Highway 36 which I would take almost the rest of the way to Denver, CO. I try to avoid Interstates as much as possible. The large chunks of rubber that fly off truck tires when they are traveling at 70 plus miles per hour make me nervous.
Once on Highway 36 I rode through St. Joseph, MO and across the Missouri River into Kansas. In a few miles I started my detour into Nebraska on Kansas High 7. It was scenic route along the West side of the Missouri River through White Cloud, KS into Nebraska. I turned West on US Highway 159 at Rulo and continued to Falls City, NE. I then turned back to the South on US Highway 73 back into Kansas and hit US 36 again at Hiawatha, KS.
On the way West through small towns and sorghum fields, I came upon a sign marking the Geographic Center of the United States. I had to stop for a quick photo.
I stopped for the 2nd night at Norton, KS after a bright, clear 400 mile day.
As I pulled on to the street the next it was clear and chilly. About 40 degrees F. I stopped for gas at the edge of town and there was a couple on another bike also fueling up. The where from a small Kansas town not too far away. They where headed West to "ride around the mountains for a few days". That's what it's all about!
As I continued my ride through western Kansas the temperature rose and it wasn't long before I started to shed layers of clothing. Soon I was entering Colorado.
By the time I got to Denver, my stop for the night, the weather was great. Close to 80 degrees F and sunny. The mountain riding would begin in the morning.
My original plan for the 4rth day of the ride was to head to Gunnison, CO, but there was a big storm system that was to hit there that day. I decided to make my destination Pueblo, CO instead. A short days ride but I could take my time and make some stops along the way and hopefully the storm would pass through.
I ran into a bit of rain but nothing serious. My first stop was Castlewood Canyon State Park near Franktown, CO.Next stop Pikes Peak Harley Davidson in Colorado Springs where I ran into some fellow riders from Iowa.
After spending the night in Pueblo I headed out toward Gunnison. The first stop was the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. The bridge crosses the Arkansas River some 950 feet below. Flags from all 50 states line the bridge deck. There is a sight-seeing train that runs along the river below. The weather and the views where great here. After this stop I headed West on US Highway 50 to Salida, CO where I stopped for lunch at the Seasons Cafe. By now the weather was looking a little threatening so after lunch I gassed up and put on my rain gear. From here Highway 50 heads up to Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet above sea level so the extra layer would be fine even if it didn't rain.
I could feel the temperature start to drop as I gained elevation heading toward the pass. The scenery was great and the highway smooth and curvy without much traffic. Then it started to rain. And get colder. Down to about 40 degrees as I reached the top. The rain gear, helmet and other gear did it's job and soon I headed down the west side of the pass. The temperature came back up as I descended and the sun came out as I was rolling in Gunnison. That was the last time I got rained on during this trip.
The next morning was clear and crisp as I headed out to the Million Dollar Highway. I passed the Blue Mesa Reservoir on the Gunnison River and the Black Canyon National Park.At Montrose, CO I turned off of Highway 50 onto Highway 550. I stopped for lunch at Maggies Kitchen in Ouray, CO. Ouray is a neat little mountain town located at about 7,800 feet abobe sea level. It is also marks the begining of the Million Dollar Highway.
Just South of town there is road side overlook that allows you to see Bear Creek Falls. If you don't stop at the overlook you will not know there is a waterfall there at all.The highway continues to be narrow and curvy without many guard rails up, over Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 feet above sea level to Silverton, CO. Another neat little mountain town that is home the World's Highest Harley Store at 9,300 feet above sea level.Silverton is considered the Southern end of the Million Dollar Highway but there where still plenty of mountain roads and high elevations on the way to Durango, CO where I would stop for the night. In fact there are two more passes that are higher than 10,00o feet above sea level. Molas Pass at 10,900 Feet and Coal Bank Pass at 10,600 feet. The next morning leaving Durango was another beutiful, bright, clear day. I headed out on US Highway 160 through Mancos and Cortez, CO on the way to the Four Corners Monument. At the monument I was able to ride in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona in about one minute by riding around the building before stopping to have a look.Next Stop Teec Nos Pos, AZ. There is not much there other than the trading post which has a gas station and shop with many Navajo made goods.From there I was off through the Painted Desert on Highway 160 to Tuba City then to US Highway 89 and South to Flagstaff, AZ. The scenery of the colored rock formations in the desert are awsome.
Heading South out of Flagstaff on Highway 89A I stopped at Oak Creek Vist Point. From this overlook you can see part of the switchbacks on the highway as it winds down to Sedona. The highway takes you from an elevation of 6,900 feet to 4,300 feet in about 25 miles of very twisty road.
I reached my destination at The Village of Oak Creek just south of Sedona. The red rock formations are awesome. I think it's one of the most beautiful places in the United States.
If you ever get the chance to take a trip along this route (especially on 2 wheels) don't pass it up!