Good morning Silverton. It’s cold, frosty even. We’re at 9,000 and some odd feet and surrounded by mountains that clearly think a lot of themselves. They dominate the view and the conversation.
Last night we hung out in the Brewery and stumbled onto a live performance by Mike Hogan playing from his album “Fancy Guitar.” It’s a little bit of slide and a lot of fun. The owner keeps saying, “He just walked in here, said he’d play for tips.” We’re all really impressed with this traveling musician from New Mexico.
In the morning we walk down the wide muddy street. It makes me want spurs and holsters. The town has an old timey, mountain feeling only the way a town surviving up here, without much outside interference except the occasional avalanche , can possess. So Silverton’s awesome, the girl at the Avalanche Cafe is not so awesome. It’s as if she wants to punish us for some unknown crime. We get it, you’re a local. But everyone lives somewhere sister and when you come to St John we’re going to treat you nicely.
We have lattes and breakfast burritos on the porch in the hot mountain sun before packing up. We start to miss the south, where everyone was head over heels nice and motorcycle adventurers were unique. Now we are everywhere. We chat up two BMW’s heading over Cinnamon Pass the way we just came from. They are two up and one rider can barely touch the ground. I resist the feeling I should warn them, but I worry about them the rest of the day. I can’t imagine them making the tight, rocky and precipitous switchbacks loaded up on the big bikes with passengers
So we start our own adventure. The plan is simple, ride Ophir pass through the little town of Ophir and camp in Telluride. It will be a short day, but we know better than to assume it will be easy. We fuel up, oil up and start the climb out of Silverton. A short jog on the highway brings us to a double track dirt road. The climb is as spectacular as all the others. A massive mountain pours down into an idyllic valley as we skirt up its northern flank. Eventually we come to the pass. We are surrounded by scree. Baby sized angular red rocks are in piles pushed aside for us to pass through and then descend on a single lane road that cuts like a knife edge across the side of the mountain. One switchback and then we are balancing on crushed rock, loose scree above us and 1,000 feet below us the valley floor. To fall that way probably wouldn’t kill you, it’s not a sheer drop. It would just be an uncomfortable tumble into the boulders.
The little town of Ophir sits in a meadow at the bottom. The welcome to sign is hand painted. Based on the signs we see it seems the town’s main concerns are speeding and avalanches.
We come out on a sweetch stretch of highway that winds its way into Telluride. We stop on the way to explore Sunshine Campground which has a few small campsites with little privacy. We are hoping to camp right in town but there’s a “Blues and Brews” festival. We’ve waited till sunday but when we arrive they won’t let us in to the campground without a bracelet. We manage to scalp some from a two guys on BMW’s and get a nice spot by a tiny creek. We can hear a band playing on the stage. We set up and walk through little paths along the main creek into town.
Telluride is tucked into a canyon created by huge peaks that surround the historic Inns and saloons of main street. If you stand in the middle of the street you can look right way up into a perfect mountain draining into a waterfall that spills off the cliffs and on into town where it must become this creek.
We get a table in the window on main street and people watch. There’s young women in long patchwork dresses dragging puppies around. There’s folks on the sidewalk playing banjos and the “mando.” In the back of the bar is a stable of young women in cowboy boots and jean shorts. They are screaming in unison and stomping to the music. We are overwhelmed. It’s too loud, there are too many people and too much energy. We spend our days riding and daydreaming and our nights sitting around campfires or in little hostels, this is something else. But we are also excited. Our good friend Jason is riding down from Northern Utah to meet us. Fresh off a tour of National Parks with his girlfriend, Lou, he’s eager to try his new bike off road.
We meet Jason as he rolls down main street. His new Triumph Tiger is a bike to behold. It seems huge next to our little dirt bikes. It’s a steampunk fantasy of welded frame and scowling lights. He’s customized it with luggage racks, skid plates, crash guards and extra lights. But most impressive is the sound, something between a whistle and a hum. Maybe it’s the three cylinders harmonizing.
We bar hop a little and tuck in around 1:00 am. Tomorrow we will be three ruders for our last Colorado Pass before the red canyons of Utah.