September 25 Cortez, CO to Sawpit, CO to Ouray, CO to Silverton, CO to Mesa Verde National Park back to Cortez, CO 276 miles
Today is day 8 of our Million Dollar Highway motorcycle ride. Today we realize our dream to ride the Million Dollar Highway. This was a pretty easy day and the best day of the trip because of the route. This was the purpose of the trip. LC had read something about this route on the inter-net and suggested it when we initially talked about making this trip. I was not sure the weather would let us riding this route because of the altitude and the time of the year but as it turned out it was the best part of the trip. LC said it was the best ride he had ever ridden.
We got an early start and the temperature in Cortez was 49 degrees. We knew it would get colder as we climbed in altitude. The coldest it got was 34 degrees according to the air temperature reading on my bike. I’m not sure what the highest altitude we reached but I know it was over 10,000 feet. The bikes performed flawlessly in the mountains. In fact we got our best gas mileage on this leg of the trip. I got over 52 mpg and LC and LT got similar gas mileage. At several of our stops at higher altitude we could tell we were not at sea level. We wouldn’t be running any races up the mountain.
I just loved the mountain towns on this route. Ouray looked like something you would see on a post card or calendar. I thought we would stop for lunch there but since it was still early and no one was hungry we rode on to Silverton.
The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Ouray and Silverton. The origin of the name Million Dollar Highway is disputed. There are several legends, though, including that it cost a million dollars a mile to build in the 1920s, and that its fill dirt has a million dollars in gold ore.
Once on the Million Dollar Highway we rode through a series of steep grades and hairpin curves without guard rails. Not for the faint at heart, particularly on a motorcycle. This is what motorcycle riding is all about… It doesn’t get any better than this.
There are many youtube videos’ out there you can watch about riding the Million Dollar Highway. This is one of them…
Silverton, as one local puts it, “Silverton: A gritty little mining town with Victorian pretensions!” Once the stomping ground of silver kings and railroad giants, Silverton survives today as one of Colorado’s most endearing destinations.
Due to a slow market and low demand, mining in Silverton closed down in the early 1990s. However, there’s still gold and silver in those mountains and rumor has it that mining will be back one day.
When we arrived there were tourist everywhere, no lack of people spending money. There are lots of shops for tourist to spend money.
We ate lunch at the “Thee Pigs, Again”. I had a BBQ brisket sandwich with potato salad and BBQ beans. It was as good as anything I could get in Texas where beef is the king of BBQ.
After lunch we walked around town. There are only two streets that parallel each other, the main street being paved and the other being gravel. Words and pictures won’t do justice to describe Silverton. It can only be experienced.
From there it was back to Cortez. I wasn’t sure if we would have time to make a quick pass through Mesa Verde but after discussing it over the radio we decided to give it a shot. I had been there before but that was about 18 years ago. When we got to the gate we found out that it was a free day at all the National Parks.
Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1300. Today, the park protects over 4,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.
We stopped at the visitor center and talked to one of the rangers who suggested places to visit in the park since we had such limited time. In spite of the time we did get to see quite a bit. We didn’t get to take any tours but were able to view a goodly number of the cliff dwellings from afar and several ruins up close.
The ride into and out of Mesa Verde is spectacular. It is 15 miles from the entrance gate to the visitor center on top of the mesa. The ride to the top takes you through many curves, switchbacks and hairpin curves. The views were spectacular. On the way out we saw several deer, which the ranger warned us about. We definitely didn’t want to see them up close and personal. The other hazard we encountered was the sun. It was starting to set and as we came around some of the curves we went from shadows to bright sun light in our eyes, which made it difficult to see some of the curves.
Once out of the park we were riding west into the sun and that was nerve-racking because of the lack of visibility. We did manage to make it back safe and sound.
We have reached and rode our goal for this trip… The Million Dollar Highway. It was everything we expected and much more. Another ride to check off our ride bucket list. If you have a chance to do this ride by all means take the opportunity. You won’t regret it. As always there were many things to do that we didn’t have time for so I hope we can do this ride again.
Tomorrow will be our last full day of riding together. We will soon start looking forward to the next big adventure and start making plans. Come follow along as we continue on our journey and share the ride and scenery… Ride safe…
Below are the posts from each day of our ride. Come follow along as we ride to enjoy the fun and beautiful scenery…
Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride introduction
Day 1 & 2 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 3 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 4 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 5 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 6 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 7 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 9 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010
Day 10 Million Dollar Highway Motorcycle Ride 2010