Day 16 – Denver, CO to Vernal, UT
Total Kilometres: 595 (370 Miles)
High/Low Temp: 7 celcius (top of Milner Pass) and 31 celcius (Dinosaur, UT)
Total Riding Time: 7:00am MST – 4:00pm MST
Got up at six and reassembled the bags on the bike, packed and was ready to go by 6:45. really enjoyed the time spent in denver. great to spend time with kim, since i haven’t seen him for so many years. denver, well, it’s just another big city – i really didn’t have the energy to wander around much. i’m sure if i spent more time there i’d find the hotspots and things to do, but i was just glad to have a rest. still feel a bit off with the altitude sickness.
at 7:00 am, i zipped down the street from kim’s and onto the freeway towards boulder. what a gong show. apparently it’s now universal to be texting or talking on the phone while driving, or basically paying as little attention to what you are doing while ‘driving’ as possible. had a close one with a yahoo texting on his phone while driving, the only thing that got his attention was the honk of my horn. after nearly running into me, he went back to texting and cutoff two other cars before immediately cutting back across three lanes to exit the freeway. ugh!
the ride out highway 36 was pretty smooth otherwise. the traffic was flowing really well and in about an hour i was outside of the denver metropolitan area.
highway 36 then enters the rocky mountain national park. which became more and more interesting as the ride went on. estes park is a beautiful little town along a scenic lake at the foot of the mountains. just past the end of estes park is the park entrance for rocky mountain national park. now when i picked this route, highway 34, i simply was looking for a way from denver back over to northern utah and the flaming gorge. man, am i glad i did go this way. my golden eagle park pass has paid for itself already, and was used again as admission into this park.
the ride goes from the gate steadily uphill until reaching milner pass at an elevation of 10,758 feet. the ride is absolutely gorgeous with vistas back through the valley to the east and forward looking off into the rocky mountains and arapaho national forest.
there was construction at the top of the pass in a few spots so i sat on my bike and chatted with one of the flagwomen. we both commented on how beautiful the area was, she said it was the nicest place she’d ever had to work on a construction site. we both also commented on feeling a bit ‘loopy’ because of the altitude. it’s literally only a few hundred more feet by the pathways to the absolute summit, as far as i know nothing in canada comes close to this type of elevation by roadway.
after descending a few thousand feet the highway slowly winds it way back up to the summit of rabbit ear pass at an elevation of 9425 feet. also a high one. you don’t really notice how high you are until the descent into steamboat springs. you can see clear across the valley, and are literally thousands of feet from the edge of the highway onto the plains below. stunning scenery. the road is fun too. a combination of short tight switchbacks and hairpins, along with long highspeed sweepers. loads of fun, and not a lot of traffic. i actually had a bit of a chase with a coyote who was carrying his lunch while running straight down the middle of the road in front of me, luckily for me he was up on traffic regulations and yielded the right of way to the faster vehicle, me. 😉
the ride on highway 40 from steamboat springs to just before the utah border at elk springs was desert-like conditions, hot and not a lot to look at. then right before the border the temperature went back up to the utah-like temperatures of last week in the low-30s and the scenery began to change back into the sandstone and rock buttes and rugged old mountains.
the weather began to change just before the utah border with a giant western front moving in and looking like it was going to unleash a monster thunderstorm. so i elected to stop in vernal, UT for the day. nothing particularly interesting here. most everything is closed after 6pm, so i grabbed a snack, came back had a shower, and packed it in for the day.