Thursday 27th August-The Rocky Mountain National Park

It rained a fair amount overnight and the outside of the tent was a bit soggy this morning. The low cloud had really come in to obscure the mountainside but we were not to be deterred. This would be our last day in Colorado, at least for a while, so we had to make it count.

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Contact me for fashion advice (Dave)

We set off to cross the Rocky Mountains National Park road to Estes Park across a high pass at 3,700m. It was a lot of fun as the clouds made the whole thing very atmospheric.It was also good to be able to use the $80 National Parks pass we have bought.

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There were signs everywhere to watch out for wildlife but we did not see any today. There were a lot of signs of the terrible Spruce Beetle though. The mountainside was badly scarred with dead trees.

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When we got to the top of the pass, the rain started to come down in icy little needles. It is a shame there was rain on the camera lens as the views were amazing.

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We took shelter in the visitor centre cafe and took pictures thorough the window. Not a bad view from a cafe.

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Even though it was freezing cold, people stopped to chat.

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Americans, possibly the friendliest people in the world; here I am trying not to mention foreign policy in the Middle East (Dave)

Even thought was cold and rainy, it was one of the best rides we have had so far in the USA.

Later on in the day, Dave invested in some hair clippers and we decided on a motel night so we could have access to a bathroom with mirror. This was the result.

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This is my ‘tell me again what happened to your ICT homework because I’ve honestly never heard this shit before’ face (Dave)

Finally the weird mountain man has been replaced by my husband. He still has a scary stare though.

Friday 21st to Wednesday 26th August -More of Colorado

We have packed in a lot of scenery over the last few days plus a lot of camping in cool places and a night out in Boulder.

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Highlights have included the ride from Gunnison to Carbondale via Black Canyon.

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The canyon plunges to 2000 ft at one point but we were going in the wrong direction for the best views so I kept having to look over my shoulder. Nevertheless it was spectacular.

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The views were a bit smoky that day due to forest fires hundreds of miles away.

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Carbondale was a cool little town with very friendly, liberal folk who stopped to chat with us. The campsite was on the Crystal River with a lovely mountain view and a great games room with leather sofas. The picture below was the view from our tent.

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We left the next day, heading for Leadville via Aspen and the Top of the Rockies scenic byway. The area around Aspen is the greenest we have seen so far.

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Aspen was interesting, full of designer shops and rich people trying not to look like they are rich.

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There was great mountain backdrop though and a gorgeous little Saturday market . It reminded me a bit of a town we visited in the French Alps last summer.

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The ride up to Independence Pass and the Top of the Rockies was stunning. There are about 20 of the highest mountains in the Rockies that can be viewed from here.

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At 3,700m, this is the highest we have ever been on the bike.

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It was pretty cold and windy and the ride up was marred a bit by the 25 mph speed limit but at least there were no RVs as they are banned. If you take your RV up there and get stuck, you have to pay $1500.

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We camped in Leadville at 3045m for two nights. We loved it here. The air was so pure and the area was totally unspoiled. There were no showers or WiFi or even grass but we totally fell in love with the place. Being told that bears did not visit the site also helped.

The site was on the banks of the Turquoise Lake.

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We returned back here after our night in Boulder to do an oil change on the bike.

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It had been leaking oil for over a week so we picked up a new oil filter at the Triumph dealer in Denver and got on with it.

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We are very relieved that the bike is now running well and no more leaking.

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Leadville is a great old mining town which came to prominence during the gold rush. There were some fabulous old buildings there.

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Including an old saloon from 1879 where we stopped in for a quick drink. No draft beer though, what a disappointment.

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The interior was fabulous though and included huge, moth eaten stuffed animals, including  a buffalo and a golden eagle.

2015-08-23 12.21.02Today we finally left Leadville to head north to Grand Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

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We are told that moose visit the campsite every day but we have not seen one yet. We saw a wild fire en route and also the evidence of a previous fire.

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Tomorrow we cross into Wyoming after 11 days in Colorado. We are heading for Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and Big Sky Montana where will be staying at the house of a friend.

Monday 18th August-The Rocky Mountains at Last

So we finally arrived in the Rocky Mountains yesterday. The weather was stunning. Endless pale blue skies, no cloud and soft sunshine. The Colorado Rockies are spectacular at every turn but not at all what I expected. Firstly, as the surrounding land is so high already, the mountain peaks do not soar above you. They are not that much higher than the valley and the gradient is gentle. There are many 14,000 ft peaks but you can actually cycle up to the top of highest.

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Secondly, it is still incredibly arid at 10-12,000 feet, so not as green as you would expect.

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Thirdly, the landscape is incredibly varied. It changes constantly after exiting the high plain. There are high passes covered in pine trees, as you would find in say The Alps but there are also vast U shaped valleys, bigger than anything I have seen before, high semi-arid plateaus, covered in scrub and low undulating mountain areas, interspersed with sandy coloured rocky outcrops and gorges. The colours are more pink and gold than green and grey. We saw no snow, even on the tops.

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We crossed a pass at just over 3,000m (sorry for changing from metres to feet) which is higher than we have been on a bike before (the highest ass we have crossed in Europe is 2,600m). It was very cold but the views were stunning. The air is incredibly thin and pure. The riding here was just as we like it-steep and twisty.

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We had lunch at a gorgeous town called Lake City (population about 1,000-yes they call it a city.) All the buildings were made from timber, some quite old and there was a wonderful laid back vibe. On the approach to the town, in the Gunnison National Forest area, all of the pine trees are dead-hundreds of thousands of them or more. In places, they are clearing them, leaving the mountainside looking very bare. Later, I read this is caused by Spruce Beetle and is affected by the droughts since 2013. I was too cold at this point to take photos but the images are burned in my memory.

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Crossing the high plateaus after lunch it was very windy. We kept having to crouch down to decrease the wind resistance. We could see the highest peaks towards Aspen in the distance. We passed a huge lake before arriving at Gunnison, our destination.

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We have decided to stay here for 2-3 days as we have not had a day off from riding for a while and did not manage the planned time off earlier due to bad weather. The town has good amenities and some great day rides. On the downside, it is the coldest town in the USA in the winter and even in August the temperatures go down pretty low at night. At 6am this morning, my phone said it was 3 degrees celsius. We have good sleeping bags, thermal underwear and light down jackets and we love the cold so it suits us fine.

We have had a few issues with the bike this week. Dave has gone off this morning to get a new chain fitted and we plan to head for Denver next week to collect some new sprockets. We are also leaking oil and hoping it is just overflowing. The bike is our trusty steed and our trip is entirely dependent upon it so it lust come first. Any money spent on maintenance and repairs is money well spent. We have clocked  up more than 4,000 miles in the last 5 weeks and there are a lot more to come.

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Sunday 16th-Tuesday 18th August- Arriving in Colorado via New Mexico

The Rocky Mountains really has been our destination since we began 4 weeks ago. The mountains are where we feel most at home (and a major reason for leaving Berlin where it is very flat). Hence the excitement at the prospect of arriving in Colorado.

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After leaving the motel, we crossed into New Mexico almost immediately. All industrialisation vanished and we were left with wonderfully huge, empty plains. We left early and it was cool. It made me realise how suffocating the previous day’s ride had been in Texas. For a short while we turned onto a tiny road that wound through rocky outcrops, very reminiscent of the cowboy films we used to watch when we were kids. It was the most enjoyable riding we have done in the US so far. We saw no other vehicles but we did see a big, shiny, red snake slither across the road.

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Crossing the border into Colorado, the plains became even more empty and beautiful with distant mountain views. This is the first time I have been able to imagine Native Americans living in the landscape. You can see why this land was so important to them. It is now one of the most sparsely populate areas of the USA. It struck me how sad it was that the tribes were driven off when the land snow standing empty and unused. I saw a Pronghorn, an unusual antelope type critter that once was almost extinct and several deer.

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We spent the first night at a state park campground on Lake Trinidad. The nearby town had a hint the old west (as do most of the towns around here). The campsite was baking hot with little shade when we arrived but the cloud soon came over and the rest of the day and night was punctuated with rain and thunder storms.

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I keep emphasising how friendly the people are but really, here in Colorado, they are, almost overwhelmingly friendly. On the campsite, one guy brought us a fresh tomato he had picked that morning and two couples invited us into their RVs when it was raining. The park ranger had a long chat about the benefit of alloy wheels on the Tiger. We met two separate British ladies who are now living out here and chatted with them. We also met a guy on a coffee stop who wanted to chew over the problems of the US education system and recommend an Indian pueblo for us to visit. Even the state trooper who nicked us for speeding was friendly as he doled out the $170 fine (which should have been more but for his discretion).

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I have to say that I am desperate to get to the mountains. We were forced to stop shot, in the town of Monte Vista, yesterday due to a forecast storm. We enjoyed an unplanned hotel night, a meal out at a Chinese restaurant and a comfy bed.

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As you ride west here, into the mountains, they seem to keep getting further away. It is quite frustrating. We should get there today. We are already at 7600 feet though and have been over 8,000 (about 2400m). The altitude creeps up on you here. We have not slept as high since we trekked in Nepal in 1997. I have noticed some symptoms of mild mountain sickness, like fatigue, headache (made much worse by drinking only one bottle of Budweiser) and irritability. They should ease off.The bike is also suffering a little, with both a water and oil leak and it is labouring more with the thinner air. Today we will be riding up to about 9,000 feet (about 2700m) which we have done in Europe, crossing high passes but not for extended periods of time.

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