(EDIT – this post was supposed to have been posted in July of 2021… and was written then. I didn’t notice it never got actually posted!!)
So the pandemic, that was a thing eh? Well since the pandemic wrapped up for a large part of the country (EDIT August 2021 – Delta Variant is back and is fucking everything up again thanks to the anti-vaxxers…), I’ve been on quite a few adventures since the past post. I realized this year, I’ve now been riding a motorcycle and loving it for close to 1/4 of my life. That’s something I think?
I scheduled one trip on my own on the bike to some destinations I’ve been wanting to spend time in. While I was planning this, another trip was being planned with my wife and some family to head to some of the same areas I was already going, so I had the opportunity to tune what I did a bit because I knew I would be back.
First Motorcycle Trip of 2021 – 1600mi to Monument Valley, UT
As in the last post, the motorcycle just had new suspension installed at the end of April, and after a few tweaks was ready to rock for a trip. Because memorial day was coming up and I wanted to get a trip in before it got too hot, and too crowded, I set off May 24th and visited a number of places I was interested in seeing.
I really wanted to visit Los Alamos, NM which I missed last year with the oilpan SNAFU. I also really wanted to visit the spot the bike broke down to show it, it did not beat me. Besides that Monument Valley has my heart, and is one of those areas I am just endlessly mesmerized by.
Day 1 – Victor, CO
Victor is one of those towns I rode through back in 2011, and it was a curiosity. It’s a town nestled on the back side of Pikes Peak and next to one of the most productive/largest gold mines in North America, yet is a mining ghost town. It was a short ride to get to the town from Denver, but it ended up being a lot of dirt roads, which turned out to be fun going down the Platte river. New roads, and fun views.
The town itself is funky, It’s in deep red territory in Colorado, but the town itself has been really taken over by some free spirit, and fun people it seems. It’s truly close to a closed community while its just minutes from Cripple Creek (Casino town), and Colorado Springs is just down the highway. But based on their location nothing goes through Victor, you need to actually try to go there. When I was there it was quiet and still off season, but I had a great night talking with locals at the bar next to the hotel I was at.
Day 2 – Los Alamos, NM
When I left Victor, I took a direct route to get down south, and that involved a 30+mi dirt road (Former train path I believe) called the Phantom Canyon. It starts directly south of Victor and is a 30mi route that is an alternative to a 120+mi paved route. I prepared the bike to go on the dirt and gravel a bit, but it was still going to be an interesting ride. And it was! Some very fun and technical roads. The bike was dirty AF after, but worth it. Overall it was 320mi to get to Los Alamos.
I am a geek, history nerd, engineering nerd, and high end sciences fan… Los Alamos is one of those destinations that is worth more in some sentimental aspects than it may seem rolling into a town that was once the center of the Manhattan project. I’ve been wanting to visit this town for decades, and I was finally there.
The park in the center of town was the hub/center point of the Manhattan project. Houses for Robert Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, and others are still there, as well as the Fuller Lodge that housed a lot of meeting spaces and apartments for scientists during the project. The more impressive part is how Los Alamos is lush, green, and up next to an amazing forest area while residing right next to some amazing badlands/deserts/bluffs. The lab itself butts up next to the Bandelier National Monument. The main museum I wanted to visit is still closed so I will be going back again sometime in late 2021 or 2022.
Day 3 and 4 – Monument Valley, UT
Since Los Alamos was a missed location I was going to back in 2020, I needed to ride past the area that my bike died back then. I was curious if the oil stain was still there. This required a detour of close to 75 miles, but mentally, it was worth it.
After visiting the monument to my failure in 2020, I dropped the hammer and raced the remaining 300 mi to get to Monument Valley and check in for a special full moon desert tour by a Navajo guide. I stayed at the historic Gouldings Trading Post and Lodge, which I have read about in numerous books.
Henry Goulding has a checkered past in the valley, and was likely the direct reason Uranium mining took off in the region. The lodge employs hundreds of indigenous people from the valley and is a key part of the economy there now.
The full moon tour started with some great info and sight seeing around the bluffs that Gouldings is built on. We took some off-road tour vehicles on some pretty gnarly off road sand driving in the dunes behind Gouldings trading post to a great steak dinner and then hiked around to Tear Drop Arch, and watched the full moon rise over the valley from a few hundred feet up. My photos of the Moon turned out like trash, but the tour was well worth it.
As part of the tour there were a number of spectacular views and spots to see some great sights. I then spent the second day riding around Monument Valley, UT, Mexican Hat, UT, and Kayenta, AZ. It was a stunning day of low stress just riding around the valley in its splendor.
Day 4 and 5 – Utah through Colorado to Denver
Now I don’t have any pictures (I have a lot of video though!), but the ride back was a pretty fast affair. I rode from Monument valley through Norwood canyon to Montrose on day 1. I stopped at the same cafe in Norwood that I went to on my first trip around Colorado back in 2011, immediately after I broke the foot peg off the bike back then. It was nice going through there again.
In Montrose I had a nice steak dinner at Ted Nelsons Steakhouse at the bar with Ted himself behind the bar.
Day 5 I raced up and over Grand Mesa to make it home before some epic snow and rain storms slammed the mountains just hours after I went through. Rounding out a really amazing trip!