Colorado 12 passes tour

(the originally intended route is further down)

12 Passes Trip
Via Jones Valley
Click here for photo gallery.

My 12-Passes trip began with a trek to Jones Valley in Arkansas for the annual family reunion.

July 1
Left home 7 Am. Got hot Very quickly & by Tyler at noon it Was well into the 90’s headed for 100. Then rain. Thank goodness. And I was in it until past Texarkana. With a donut breakfast in Lampasas & but a single chicken thigh somewhere in far NE Texas, I arrived in Jones Valley hungry at 4:30.
470 mi. 9:16 time. Avg. speed 50.5.

I then spent that Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in the Valley. Was up until about 2:30 Monday morning yakking with some cousins and eating sausage cooked over a roaring fire on the end of a freshly cut sapling branch. July in Arkansas and we had a fire? Well, there’s just no better place to swap lies than around a camp fire.

July 4
Depart J. V. At 7:20. It was early, given the late night before. But I was exhilarated with the notion of meeting the guys in Dumas and heading for Colorado.
I had a gentle rain until I hit I-40 just East of Oklahoma City.
Talimena Skyway was gorgeous this time – no fog. Last year I had dense fog across there that all but totally obscured the view.

At 10:44 picked up a voicemail message that Norm had crashed. Beth called at 12 to say he had some wrist and possible clavicle involvement — not too serious. We later learned that the shoulder was separated but back in place later, and a hairline fracture of the wrist. Bike is hurt a little, to an unknown extent. Robert & Mike departed from near San Saba at about noon. That makes them at least 3 hours behind.

Now taking it a but slower due to the delay of Mike and Robert, so perhaps will absorb a little men of the Scenery. I continue to be impressed w/ the beauty of Oklahoma in stark contrast to the dust bowl imaqe of my youth and early schooling.

7:15 arrived Dumas. Got a motel room so that we would have a fresh start with a good night’s sleep. Hard to imagine camping in Dumas. This would be our last motel room until the last sprint homeward some days hence. I had been camping since last Friday.
583 mi. Avg 49.5 Time 11:45 Cumul. 1052

4:30 msg. From Robert And Mike that they were in Sweetwater. An additional hour was lost when Robert left his Key on and ran down the battery. OK, that’s two events. What will #3 be?

Only had about 2 hours of serious heat during the trek from Arkansas, and then a nice cloud cover came up to make it a much better trip across Oklahoma than last year. One quickly discovers that in Dumas on July 4 there few eating opportunities! I now wish I had opted for the steak instead of the mexican plate as the local beanery. Filling nonetheless.

July 5
Departed 8:32 in cool weather. Easy trek to Trinidad, CO. Lunch there & then off on Scenic 12 to intercept US160 and head west to Southfork where we stopped for dinner due to running late. Southfork? That’s not part of the 12 Passes route, but we had determined to go west to Lake City instead of straight up 285 through Salida. Robert and I love Lake City and Mike had never been there so the first modification of the route was made. Why running late you ask? My right bag came off! Incident #3 I guess. One of the “ears” had been damaged some time ago and the repaired bracket gave way. Thank goodness for the Ace Hardware store in Alamosa and that this happened while it was still open. A bit of rope and the proud Beemer was strapped together again. Alamosa … ugh! That’s where the starter failed last year. That’s the sole failure on the Beemer in 80,000 miles and now the bag thing. Must study maps to find another route to Lake City next time.

Decided to go to Lake City and resume route at Gunnison. Add another pass — Spring Creek Pass just before Slumgullion.

Camped beside the creek(Henson Creek) again. My tent is less than 10 feet from the water’s edge. The flow is good & the water is ripping at the rocks. With temperature dropping rapidly, the sleeping should be excellent.

July 6
239 mi. Avg. 30.3. Lots of stops
7:53 max 87.7 Cumul. 1746.0

Woke up to cool weather but no rain overnight. Slow getting away watching Robert do one more version of packing his bike. I must take a picture for reference if he ever decides he’s hit the very best method. He now has a piece of 1×6 board under one of his packs! Had I not graced the Beemer with a roped-on bag I would have to laugh at his rig. Did Monarch Pass. Awesome. Stqzred for lunch in Salida. Well, not exactly Salida but Ponca? Near there. Awesome blueberry pie a la mode! Washed it down w/ some of the best coffee of the trip.

On to Independence Pass which is always a thrill.

Shortly after departing Twin Lakes enroute the pass I rounded a corner only to be confronted by a rocky mountain sheep. It was a sizeable ram right in my lane, obviously thinking it was his. I yielded instantly & he headed back up his hill, apparently happy that I had shown proper deference to him & the several ewes who were waiting slightly up in the brushy hillside.

Short stop in Aspen for Some $2.98 per gallon gas. Beautiful town but I cant even afford to dnve thru!

Called ahead & found a nice campground just South of Carbondale (BRB Crystal River RV Resort). Our tents are pitched beside the Crystal River which is roaring along rapidly.

We’re about 1/2 day behind oar optimum schedule but will pick up the pace tomorrow.
We continued the intended 12-Passes route but at Granby, decided to modify it and include Rocky Mountain National Park in lieu of some of the passes now lying to the South of us. It was at Robert’s gentle insistence that we did this, and were we glad! It’s an awesome park with a fantastic road up a mountain that is nestled in the bosom of other mountains and the road and overpowering beauty give the feeling of climbing God’s stairway to the heavens.

The East entrance to the park comes out at Estes Park where we stopped for a light dinner at the Taco Bell/KFC. It was there that I suggested that we had seen the best of the best, that making the 12 passes was unimportant, and that with some stretching we could be home by Friday night. This was Wednesday about 6pm that we determined to make this final modification to the plan.
Thus we struck out for Raton, knowing that from there we could make it home in a day.

July 7
Arrived Raton About 12:15a.m. Friday
559 mi. 37.5Avg. 14:54 time Max 90.1
Cumul. 2304.5
Odometer sitting on 81819

July 8
Up early and off for home. We had only gotten to sleep around 1:30 this same morning but were pumped and having a case of “get-home-itis.” We were on the road by 8:45a.m. Texas time.
698 miles, Avg. speed of 56.8, max 107.4 with a total time of 12:17. Cumulative trip odometer per the GPS is 3002.5 miles. The bike’s odometer now sits on 82,540.
I was glad to get home and headed straight to the shower. Jennifer got home from work shortly thereafter and was glad to see me in spite of the mustache/goatee beard that had sprung up.

It was a great trip, just sorry that Norm missed it. Robert and Mike are easy to ride and be with. I saw some places I had been before on trips over the years, each of which is a wonderful memory that I’ll hold forever. And I saw places I had not before gazed upon, and the Rocky Mountain National Park is especially now burned into my memories along with the fondest of them. I feel for those souls who have never enjoyed the thrill of touring the open road on two wheels and am grateful for the many opportunities I had to do this. I’ve traveled with many fine companions and Robert has been one of the best, and Mike too although not as frequent.

I’m proud to have shared this trip with them, this last 2-wheeled tour of mine.
I’ve decided to hang up my touring boots and go on to something else with four wheels, possibly a jeep. But I’ll see you on the road somewhere nevertheless.

Captain Justice, out.

Here is the originally intended route:
Here it is. 12 passes in 4 days, as written up in RoadRunner, June ’05.
The route of the loop itself is shown below. Attached is a PDF file with a Street Atlas routing.

Once in Walsenburg, here’s the route:

W on 160 over La Veta Pass (9,241′) to Alamosa, Monte Vista
285 N to Saguache
CO 114 toward Gunnison over North Cochetopa Pass (10,100′)
E on US 50 toward Salida over Monarch Pass (11,312′)
N on SR 291, join US 24/285 thru Johnson Village
then W on SR 82 to Twin Lakes and over Independence Pass (12, 095′) to Aspen
82 all the way to Glenwood Springs
E on I-70, the pick up 6 at Gypsum (parallels I-70)
6 becomes 24 at Eagle, follow 24 over Tennessee Pass (10,424′) to Leadville
Out of Leadville, SR 91 over Freemont Pass (11,318′) to I-70,
then near Silverthorne, SR 9 to Kremmling
ALTERNATE: just S of Silverthorne we can go S on SR 9 toward Breckenridge and eliminate the northern loop.

Go E on I-40 to Grandby, then S over Berthoud Pass (11,315′), intercept US 6 / I-70
W on 6/ I-70 over Loveland Pass (11,995′), pass Silverthorn and Dillon
Take SR 9 S to Breckenridge over Hoosier Pass (11,541′) to Fairplay
Go N/E on 285 over Red Hill Pass (9,993′) and Kenosha Pass (10,000′)
285 to Bailey, take SR 68 S to Deckers. Has many local names until Deckers, then SR 67.
Continue to US 24, go W over Wilkerson Pass (9,502′) to Hartsel.
S on 9 to Colorado City. It’s 9 to 50, W on 50 to Texas Creek.
(If you go a bit East instead, there’s the Royal Gorge)
At Texas Creek, S on 69 to Westcliffe, take 96 E to 165.
Follow 165 to Colorado City on I-25, S to Walsenburg.
The end.

The loop is 996 miles total, Walsenburg back to Walsenburg.

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About Gil Jones

CPA/Attorney/Judge by training and trade. Hobby nut at heart with BMW m/c, computers, ham radio, kayak fishing, photography, hiking and, starting in 2010 some semi-serious running and bicycling (road and mountain bikes). Retired after 16 years on a Texas District Court bench and since 2013 have been mediating cases. I am a Credentialed Distinguished mediator (TMCA).
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