In the morning we got an early start and headed 30 miles up I-25 to Fort Collins, where, after doing the obligatory freeway-to-town commute, we picked up US 14 west into the Rockies. This was a tremendous road, and it had none of the masses of traffic that US 34 does coming up further south. We wound along the Poudre River through rocks and canyons all the way up to 9000 feet. At which point the rocks fell away and we headed through dwindling pines, still steadily up but now in the open, air cooling down, all the way to Cameron pass at 10,276 feet. We stopped once to turn in the mixture screws on Päivi’s carburetors, giving her bike a bit more air, but aside from that the machines performed outstandingly. The Versys especially was really coming into its own now, nimble around the curves, pouring on the power when I needed it, the engine singing in its preferred range of 5,000-8,000 RPM.
After the pass we went down one or two thousand feet, then found ourselves in a broad, relatively flat area, one of the great tablelands between Rockies spines that are unique to Colorado even though the Rockies themselves continue for another thousand miles north. It was too dry for farming evidently, but there was abundant ranching going on, and we’d see mostly black cattle dotting the rolling country stretching many miles out to the mountains on either side. The vegetation was dry and brushy, and when we stopped we’d notice the air was permeated with the scent of sage.
We stopped for lunch in Walden, a ranching town that had a few concessions to tourists, including a rustic restaurant with log walls with a menu centering around hamburgers. Ah, that was good. Too bad we couldn’t have a beer though. OK, now back on the bikes through a wildlife refuge and then another pass, on down into Steamboat.
Steamboat Springs actually sits in a broad valley at only 6,700 feet of elevation, which means it was pretty hot when we got there around 3 in the afternoon. It’s surrounded by gently sloping mountains, which make for good skiing mountains. (Since most of the paying public is not necessarily into the hellbent half-avalanche sliding, half precipice jumping, 10-foot deep powder kind of stuff that you see in the Warren Miller movies.) We stopped for gas and found our gas station was attached to a liquor store which in turn was attached to a ski shop. Ah, we’ve found the right sort of town all right.
We headed on to our campground just west of town, then took a free shuttlebus in to the downtown where Päivi took me around and told me about how much things had changed. However, as I was having a local IPA in a casual pub we’d found, surrounded by thin, athletic people glowing with health, watching mountain bikes ride by outside, I told her I liked it just fine as it was now.