SW Colorado – Day 3

Durango to Ouray to Durango to Pagosa Springs ~ 200 miles

This was another awesome day and one I’d been looking forward to for weeks.  It was finally time to ride the Million Dollar Highway!  I had been on the MDH once before, but only as a pillion during my first rally.  I remember some sheer drop offs and thinking whoa, that’s intimidating!

Our plan for this day was to ride to Ouray, find some lunch and then head back through Silverton and Durango and on to Pagosa Springs.  There are not many places to pull over, but there are a thousand photos in my memory of this day.  On our way out of Durango the Durango-Silverton train was starting one of its daily trips full of eager tourists.  I also saw a helicopter hovering overhead, carrying a water drop bucket.  I hadn’t heard of any fires in the area and didn’t see any, thankfully.  However, when I returned home a few days later I noticed a story in the local paper about the controversy surrounding the train given that it had probably sparked a large wildfire in the area last summer.  That could explain the helicopter – taking precautionary measures.

The ride over Red Mountain pass was amazing and yes, the mountain really does look red.  Most of the vehicle traffic was pretty reasonable about pulling over if they were going more slowly and not crowding us.  That said, there was a group of several motorcyclists that insisted on passing us; some of them passed too closely and on a double yellow.  What really irritated me was that just after they passed us, they turned around and went back down the pass.

We stopped at the one large overlook and took a bunch of photos, plus talked to some very cool people who were also passing through.  I remember the last few turns before the overlook as being exceptionally tight hairpins and wow, was that exciting! I also had the chance to test out a different riding mode on my bike.  I switched from “normal” to “sport” and felt a big difference it how it handled the curves.  I’m going to have to remember that for future twisty riding to be sure!

The rest of the ride to Ouray was just as gorgeous and I kept wishing there were places to pull out safely and take photos.  But, as with the rest of my trip, had I pulled over every time I wanted to, I’d still be trying to finish. 🙂  Coming down the pass into Ouray, I started to feel the heat of the day and really wished I’d put my cooling vest on.  By the time we found parking for the bikes and took a lunch break, I was ready for some down time.  Since I had the Wolfman bag on the back, I found getting on and off the bike a little challenging at times, especially when I am tired.  On this day, my boot caught and I found myself almost tumbling into the road and oncoming traffic!  That was excitement I could have lived without.  Time to work on a better on and off strategy!

After lunch we rode back the way we had come, but the view was a little different from this direction.  We were also closer to some of the drop offs and I noticed myself staying a bit closer to the center line at times.  We took a little drive through Silverton since I had never been there either and then headed on to Pagosa Springs.

The last part of the ride that day seemed endless.  We gassed up the bikes in Durango and took a much needed water and cooling break.  We took Highways 550 and 160, which was only a 60 mile ride, but it felt like the longest 60 miles of my life!  I kept thinking surely we missed Pagosa Springs somehow, we should be there by now.  I guess riding the Million Dollar Highway took more out of me than I expected!

After arriving at our hotel, we made a plan for dinner and I was grateful it involved walking!  We also wanted to visit the hot springs there and thankfully they were open late so we managed to fit both of those in.  I think it was well after 11 PM when we arrived back at our rooms and I’m pretty sure I was asleep within moments.  What a wonderful day!  I would go back and ride that all over again in a heartbeat!



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