Things to do in Denver when your tyre's dead
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Okay, I like the headline because it's a play on the title of a film. In fact, the reality is that what I do in Denver is the same as everywhere else: get off the bike, get the laptop out and write... First finishing a story for RiDE and then starting this blog piece.
I started the RiDE piece yesterday, in Moab, but had to check-out of the motel before I'd finished it. No drama: I'd planned a short day, to give me time to write. Except... I hadn't got to the Canyonlands National Park the day before. I checked the timings. Of course I could spare an hour or maybe two to check it out.
I'm glad I did, because this vast National Park is every bit as impressive as all the others I've visited. For my money, it's every bit as mind-boggling as the Grand Canyon – the sheer scale of the landscape takes your breath away. Where the staggering depth and length of the Grand Canyon blows your mind (or mine, anyway), Canyonlands is about preposterous wide-screen vastness, with epic panoramas of canyons and mesas stretching from horizon to horizon.
After picking my jaw up from the floor, I headed off to Grand Junction. Initially following Highway 128 alongside the Colorado River. This is the beast that carved the Grand Canyon and its practice run outside Moab is pretty staggering too - all towering red cliffs and serpentine bends, which makes the road that tracks the river a real joy to ride. Eventually it broke clear of the river valley, rushing across undulating plains towards the interstate. With the heat, the dusty pale-yellow grass, the long straights and the iffy surface, this final stretch of the road reminded me of the non-EU-funded roads across the plains of Castille & Leon in Spain.
After a modest burst of the I70 interstate, I peeled off to enter my second National Park of the day: the Colorado National monument. This is a 23-mile road that hugs the top of the cliffs outside Grand Junction. It's a frankly staggering ride, climbing up from the plains in a corkscrew of hairpins and tunnels, then running along the top of the plateau with some quite intimidating drops beside it. I attempted to video it... but the GoPro battery gave up halfway along. Still, I hope the time-lapse will give you a hint of what it's like.
I stayed the night in Grand Junction and, today, came to Denver. I was going to just hurry along the interstate, but I reckoned there was enough rubber on the rear to allow a little more fun. After a few miles, I jumped off onto highway 85 and then highway 65 which climbed high over Grand Mesa. Ears popping with altitude, the temperature dropped enough for me to stop and put on my EDZ Inner Shell to try to keep warm.
From Orchard City I took highway 92 to Hotchkiss and picked up highway 133 - and had a fantastic ride over McLure Pass, to rejoin the interstate. I stuck with it as far as Silverthorne, then peeled off before going into the Eisenhower tunnel onto Highway 6 to ride the Loveland Pass. It was a fabulous ride - up there with the great passes of the Alps, but far taller (Stelvio Pass is a mere 9045ft compared with Loveland's 11,990ft). It straddles the Continental divide: on one side, everything drains into the Atlantic; on the other, the waters all run down to the Pacific. I'd already crossed it once without realising... it's nice now to stop and get a photo to memorialise it.
I rejoined the interstate at the bottom of Loveland, as it got busier and busier going into Denver. In the centre of the city I turned off I75 and onto I25, with proper stop-start traffic. Not being able to filter seems insane in these conditions – and I felt much less safe stuck in the traffic than I would have felt filtering through it. I got to my motel and checked the state of the Bridgestone T31: still a tiny amount of life on it: not bad after 6000 miles. But tomorrow morning, they'll be replaced and I'll have fresh rubber for the rest of the US leg of the journey.