Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Riding the TAT from Trinidad to Salida was epic. Yep, it was another 250 miles through spectacular mountain roads. We heeded Sam Correro’s warning and were up and on the road by 7:30am. The morning was chilly, in the low 50s, and this was the first morning our motorcycles didn’t have any dew on them. Low humidity, lower temperatures, and higher altitude were three things that we new to us on the trip – and welcome changes.
Leaving Trinidad, we headed west and a bit north up and around the Spanish Peaks. Mountain prairies would eventually change back and forth with pine trees and aspens as we gained elevation.
Something that we didn’t expect was the presence of wild turkeys in virtually every state. The only state we did not see wild turkeys, was New Mexico.
The first real town we came across was La Veta. La Veta was different from many of the towns we have passed through on the TAT. It was noticeably cleaner and people were busy milling about. Time for a bathroom break, but wait, a real coffee shop… We were wondering when we’d come across a real coffee shop in one of these small towns and it was either Madelyn or Kendrick guessed that it would be in Colorado.
In La Veta, is a great little coffee shop called Paradise Coffee. Paradise Coffee is owned and operated by a couple of motorcycle enthusiasts, Gregg & Sharon Miller. They’re into their third season of business and regularly serve excellent coffee, espresso drinks, and homemade food items (muffins, paninis, cookies, etc.). This is another must stop for TAT riders!
Recharged and rested, we still had almost 200 miles still to go, so we geared up and continued onward. The route navigates around Pikes Peak and then starts gaining elevation pretty quickly once we left Gardner.
By the time we reached the highest point of this part of the segment, Madelyn and Kendrick were light-headed, so we took a break. At 10,500′ AMSL, it’s a lot higher than most of roads we’re used to riding in Oregon. Since Madelyn and Kendrick needed a break, Scott found an opportunity. As we were approaching the top of the mountain, he spotted a pickup truck slowly chugging up through the pasture to the same intersection. What the heck, time to start asking some questions. This is when we met cowboy Jason and his two dogs, Poppy and Tippy.
Jason’s been working this tract of land (38,000 acres) for a little over five years. On this day, he was checking the fence line for damage from trees and elk. We spent the next twenty minutes or so comparing notes from our trip and his job. He’s seen motorcyclists pass through the area for years but had the chance to chat with any of the riders. Heck, who knows, maybe one day we’ll see Jason riding the TAT too. Jason had to return to work and we had to return to work, I mean riding ;>).
Down the mountain we rolled and we started seeing the presence of prior rain showers. Ruts in the road, eroded areas, and downed limbs indicated that they area had been recently hit, so the caution flags went up as we were in areas that may get tricky. The road twisted through a rural neighborhood (?) and dropped into a valley near the community of Westcliffe.
The skies were an impeccable blue and clouds had been developing since late morning. Anyone that has been in the mountains knows what vertical cloud development means, more than likely rain is on its way. Temperatures had increased into the upper 70s as the TAT zig-zagged us west of Westcliffe, then north towards Cotopaxi.
Speaking of Cotopaxi, what a great ride down into town and then back north. Cotopaxi was hot, something in the neighborhood of 87 degrees. As we headed north of town, which is up and over the last stretch of the TAT before arriving in Salida, the temps bounced down to the 60s, then back into the 70s.
We all know the brown box trucks of UPS. At the top of this little pass, we came across another UPS truck. The first one was down in no where New Mexico, now we’re up in the middle of Colorado no where and here comes a UPS truck. As he’s working his way towards us, Scott snapped a picture and the next thing you know, the UPS truck is slowing down, stops, and the driver says, “You riding the TAT?” Meet Marty, dualsport motorcyclist and fellow TAT rider that accompanied a group of Floridians on a stretch of the TAT in Colorado. Just before leaving, Marty says, you have to ride Spiral Road (just before crossing the Arkansas River), as he regrets not taking the Florida TAT riders to the top.
The TAT descends towards Salida through some pretty little aspen groves (Kendrick’s favorite) on reasonable roads. The skies had been darkening and the scent of rain was in the air.
Before we found rain, we found more cowboys working some cattle. Just a reality check that we’re in the West and there still is a place for a horse and good dog when it comes to driving cattle. We never got close enough for Madelyn to get driven nuts by cowboy butts in their Wranglers (some of you will know the reference), but it was still fun to watch them work.
We made it to Salida just as the rain, thunder, and lightening worked its way into town. Never pass up a suggestion (well, maybe sometimes) from another rider. Up Spiral Road we went, in the midst of big raindrops.
Adventure may be part of our lives, but not when it comes to lightning, so down we went just as heavier rains prevailed. What a refreshing way to end another day of conquering the TAT, all upright!