Ride the Divide
15 Continental Divide Passes in one 24-hour, 1000-mile day
June 30 - July 1, 2001


The Photos
(Click on the thumbnails to view the larger images.)


East side of Berthoud


Berthoud


West side of Berthoud


Milner


East side of Willow Creek

Willow Creek


Rabbit Ears


Muddy


Eisenhower


Loveland


Hoosier


Fremont


Tennessee


Independence


East side of Independence

East side of Independence

Cottonwood


East side of Cottonwood

Monarch


West side of Monarch


North Cochetopa


West side of N Cochetopa

Spring Creek


Wolf Creek

The Story

Ride the Divide, a four-day rolling rally organized by Mark Folsom and his friends, was one of the most popular Concours Owners Group rides held in Colorado. Even while enjoying the pace of the RtD, I often wondered if all the paved passes over the Divide could be ridden in one day, not necessarily avoiding up/down routes as RtD did. So with a little encouragement from a local competitor in the Iron Butt Rally, I mapped a route and took off.

I left my home in Littleton, Colorado, about 6am on a sunny Saturday morning and headed west into the mountains on I-70, enjoying the fresh scent of all the pine trees and the freedom of being out on the highway starting a long road trip. Past Idaho Springs I turned north to travel up the winding road (losing some of its charm to a widening project) to Berthoud Pass, my first photo stop of the day.

North from Berthoud I went past the Winter Park ski area, through Fraser (competes for the coldest winter temperatures in the nation), and on to Granby where I took the turn to Rocky Mountain National Park. Paid the $5 entry fee. The polite NPS gal looked at me and stated, rather than asked, "You don't need a map do you?" Maybe the Aerostich and the intent look in my eyes gave me away. After passing a few out-of-staters the road was clear all the way to Milner Pass. What a scenic ride! The low rock walls along the edge of the road brought back memories of childhood visits to the park. Then just a little ways up the road, at Far View Corner, was one of the best vistas in all of Colorado. At Milner Pass, one that is easy to miss because it is far below the heights that Trail Ridge Road reaches in a few miles, I took a photo and headed back down, all the while maintaining a fairly conservative speed so I could take in all the mountain beauty.

On the way out of the Park I stopped at the visitor center to stamp my National Parks Passport book, then cruised past Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and headed back to Granby. From there I headed north to travel along Willow Creek and to ride the almost perfect pavement and sweepers up to Willow Creek Pass, one of my top three motorcycling passes. I continued north through the forests to North Park and the fairly straight dash into Walden. Along the way I lost count of all the prairie dogs. There are hundreds of them. Why do they stand on the road and run in front of traffic? Don't they ever learn from others' mistakes? Anyway, after a very quick helmet-on stop for gas at Walden I headed west through the wide-open valley for Muddy and Rabbit Ears Passes. Took a couple of photos, exchanged waves with a group of bicyclists touring through the area, and headed for Silverthorn.

South of the small town of Kremmling I was behind a truck setting up a pass when suddenly there was something beside me on the right. It was a motorcycle. It was a Concours. It was my friend Rick Hall! He and some other COG members were on their way to the COG National Rally in Oregon, had stopped at the city park in Kremmling, had seen me go by, and Rick gave chase. We stopped to swap howdies. The funny part is that on COG rides Rick will come up to me at a gas stop and loudly say something like how much fun it was to have just ridden in from El Paso and wondering if we can make it to Montana by dinner. Just to make the non-motorcyclists around the place impressed, or to make them think we're nuts. So there we are beside the road, Rick is actually on his way to Oregon, and I've already been on the Divide five times and am headed for ten more. And there isn't anyone around to hear us. High altitude humor for sure.

At Silverthorn I headed up I-70 to Eisenhower Tunnel and stopped to take a picture even though it doesn't seem right to count going under the Divide. So I didn't count it. Just east of the tunnel, I took US-6 up to Loveland Pass, snapped a photo, and headed back toward Lake Dillon. Since most traffic is on I-70, it was a relaxing ride banking left and right through the forest. I took Swan Mountain road, a shortcut around the south side of the lake (and a very tough climb on a bicycle), and joined the summer tourist traffic heading to Breckenridge. Avoided town traffic by taking side streets and continued on up to Hoosier Pass. Great views from the top, but too much traffic, rough pavement, and too many 10-mph switchbacks. My least favorite pass road to ride. Took a photo, headed back to Breck's side streets, and stopped for gas and "lunch" (Gatorade and PowerBar).

In Frisco, one of my favorite resort mountain towns, it was time to hit I-70 again, at least as far as to Copper Mountain, where I began the climb to Fremont Pass. Great road with passing lanes. After a quick stop for a photo at the pass, the location of the impressive Climax molybdenum mine, it was downhill along the headwaters of the Arkansas River toward Leadville. At the east side of town I turned back north to get to Tennessee Pass where there are a number of monuments honoring the 10th Mountain Division which trained during WWII at nearby Camp Hale, then fought their way up through Italy. A quick photo and then a return to Leadville, home of one the country's highest municipal airports at 10,000'. I continued to the south along the Arkansas until reaching Twin Lakes.

The road from Twin Lakes to Independence Pass, while not one of the most favorite riding roads because of traffic and pavement, is one of the most scenic stretches of road in Colorado. So even though I was almost 500 miles into my trip, I sure was enjoying looking around. High mountains to either side, a rushing emerald creek descending the valley, a curvy shelf road high above the valley, snow fields round about, and finally the 12,095' pass (only the second highest on this ride). After several photos at the pass and along the higher parts of the road, I was on the move again back to Twin Lakes.

I continued on south to Buena Vista (pronounced Boona Vista by the locals, and often called Puny Buny). And it's airport? Puny Buny Muni. Of course. At the traffic light I turned west to head up toward Cottonwood Pass on my favorite pass road of the day. It was paved just a few years ago and isn't plowed in the winter. Great corners and scenery all the way to the 12,126' summit! (Highest of the day in case you're counting.) An "insider's" road I probably really shouldn't be sharing. On the way back down I wanted to take a short side trip to Spring Canyon, a special place by Cottonwood Creek where our family has spent a lot of time. But that would have to wait for another day. Just not enough time on this ride.

From Buny, I continued on south to Poncha Springs to stop for gas and to refill the Camelbak. While at the gas station a retired couple arrived in a purple Plymouth Prowler. Cool. And they were on their way to the Black Hills for a Prowler gathering. Cool. A bunch of folks out in their 4-wheeled motorcycles enjoying the USA. After talking to a Christian brother who has been slowed by a stroke, but is anxious to get back to motorcycling, I continued my journey towards Monarch Pass. Another great road to ride, from either direction. Probably the fourth favorite pass of the day. A photo, then down the west side and into the very pretty Gunnison River valley.

Eight miles east of Gunnison I headed south and east on CO-114, a back road that at first hugs the edge of an irrigated valley (that is full of wild iris in the early summer) surrounded by sage covered hills, then winds through a narrow canyon. At one point I had to slow while the big horn sheep scampered away from the creek up to the safety of the cliffs. They are much smarter than deer! After a ways the road opens up into rolling hills as it heads toward North Cochetopa Pass (or North Pass, depending on the map). Upon reaching the summit I discovered there wasn't a sign! Horrors, what would I do to show I was there? Take a photo of the kiosk? OK. And then a picture of the "Pass 2 Miles" sign back down the road. OK. Back into the canyon. Big horns scampered away again. Back through the valley. In 60 miles I had passed two semis and maybe met a dozen cars. No traffic, nice curves, good pavement, plenty of scenery. In the top three for sure!

By the time I reached Gunnison sunset was upon the land, so I gassed up again before heading south towards Lake City. It was dark when I crossed the bridge over Blue Mesa Reservoir. I had wanted to be able to see the great scenery as the road travels along Lake Fork but I was about an hour behind where I thought I would be by then. As it was I was able to catch glimpses of the ridgelines and the moon reflecting on the river. Not bad. At the very quiet little town of Lake City I stopped in the darkness to put on another shirt. Headed out of town, went through some sharp twisties as the road climbed toward Slumgullion Pass (isn't that a neat name?), and occasionally saw the moon shining off Lake San Cristobal far below. After what seemed to be quite a while, and actually was since I had slowed my pace so much since sunset, I finally reached Spring Creek Pass. It sure was quiet stopped there in the dark on that road that is mostly untraveled at night. Tick, tick, tick as the engine cools. Got out the electronic flash and lit the night for a photo. (The sign can actually be read where it was reflected somewhere in the SLR lens.)

On through the starlit night to the old mining town of Creede and a short stop to put on the electric vest. Then south along the headwaters of the Rio Grande River (sometimes reflecting the moon) to South Fork, a normally very busy junction town, but very quiet nearing midnight. The "normal" tourists were probably in their rooms at the motels or sleeping in their RVs and tents. But not an endurance rider, no sir'ee! Gassed up again. (Aren't pay-at-the-pump, always-open stations a great invention?) It was now time for the 15th pass over the Divide, the famous Wolf Creek Pass. And wouldn't you know? The road, as normal, was under construction. (Does anyone know when it wasn't?) It was a little tough to follow that winding road with no painted stripes on a dark night. Maybe I should get some PIAAs? At 12:30am, 18 1/2 hours after leaving home I arrived at Wolf Creek, and there was a semi parked right in front of the sign and kiosk. Bummer. Took out the electronic flash and lit the night, right there beside the truck. No one yelled, so maybe the guy never noticed. Got back on the bike and in a very relaxed mood, headed back through the construction to South Fork. It was still very quiet there. Tourists still sleeping. Endurance rider still riding. Quiet pipes save lives.

As I headed toward Monte Vista on mostly straight roads the sleepies began to arrive. Not needing to be back home at any particular time, and still within the window for hitting 1000 miles in 24 hours as also planned, I decided to try the Iron Butt Motel for the first time. Stopped at the National Forest Service office at the edge of town, parked behind one of their vehicles, and laid down on the picnic table in a small courtyard. It was lit. It had flying insects that bugged me. It was cold. I slept for an hour anyway and then hit the road.

No documentation, no pin. Passed through Alamosa around 3am. Young folks were still out and about. But who was I to tell them they should be at home sleeping? Went over La Veta Pass watching for deer. Didn't see any. I was sleepy again by the time I got to Walsenburg so I found a safe looking place near the visitor center and tried the Iron Butt Motel with side stand down, helmet on, seated on bike, head down on the tank bag. Asleep in 15 seconds. Sound asleep. What a concept! Suddenly woke up an hour later, fully alert, raised the kickstand, started the engine, roared away, all in about 10 seconds. Why? I don't know, but it kept me on schedule for a 1000-in-24. I gassed up at a station by I-25 with the odometer reading exactly 1000 miles from home. Soon after getting on the Interstate for the straight run back north the sun began to rise. Very nice. (Sunshine on my shoulder ...) I stopped again in Pueblo for gas so I could document 1000+ in fewer than 24 hours. (Although, since there aren't any date-time receipts available at the mountain passes, it wouldn't really count for an Iron Butt SaddleSore anyway.) I visited a little while with a couple of guys that had arrived from Arkansas during the night on a Gold Wing and a Venture, then traveled on home, pulling into the driveway at 7:30am.

What a great trip through God's creation. Fifteen times on the Continental Divide, over 1100 miles of beautiful Colorado scenery, and countless curves. It still brings a smile to my face as I write this over three months later.

Ride safe,
Randy Bishop, Littleton Colorado, October 2001

The Maps and Chart
(Click on the thumbnails to view the full-sized images.)


Littleton to Littleton, 1159 miles


Littleton to Rabbit Ears, 251 miles

Muddy to Independence, 222 miles

Independence to Wolf Creek, 380 miles

Wolf Creek to Littleton, 299 miles

Approximate Climbs

The Log, June 30 - July 1, 2001

Time

Odometer

Miles from Start

Location

0554

58404

0

Littleton - fuel

0655

58463

59

Berthoud Pass, 11,314' - north of Empire

0820

58528

124

Milner Pass, 10,759' - Rocky Mtn Natl Park

0940

58585

181

Willow Creek Pass, 9,683' - north of Granby

1015

58617

213

Walden - fuel

1050

58655

251

Rabbit Ears Pass, 9,426' - east of Steamboat

1058

58658

254

Muddy Pass, 8,722' - east of Steamboat

1212

58732

328

Eisenhower Tunnel, 11,013 - east of Silverthorn

1222

58738

334

Loveland Pass, 11,990' - east of Dillon

1316

58773

369

Hoosier Pass, 11,542' - south of Breckenridge

1338

58784

380

Breckenridge - fuel

1429

58811

407

Fremont Pass, 11,318' - south of Copper Mtn

1450

58831

427

Tennessee Pass, 10,424' - north of Leadville

1552

58880

478

Independence Pass, 12,095' - west of Twin Lakes

1717

58943

539

Cottonwood Pass, 12,126' - west of Buena Vista

1812

58987

583

Poncha Springs - fuel

1840

59009

609

Monarch Pass, 11,312' - west of Poncha Springs

1958

59071

667

North Cochetopa Pass, 10,149' - east of Gunnison

2044

59111

707

Gunnison - fuel

2244

59185

781

Spring Creek Pass, 10,898' - south of Lake City

2358

59240

838

South Fork - fuel

0030

59260

858

Wolf Creek Pass, 10.550' - west of South Fork

0130 - 0230

59311

907

Monte Vista - Iron Butt Motel

0400 - 0455

59400

998

Walsenburg - Iron Butt Motel

0502

59404

1000

Walsenburg - fuel

0542

59455

1051

Pueblo - fuel

0739

59559

1159

Littleton - home

 

 

 

-- Randy Bishop


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Copyright 2001, 2016, Randy Bishop
Last modified: September 4, 2016