Originally Published in my column for RoadRUNNER Magazine on: 7/31/2014
Ouray, CO : Happy Birthday Luke Swab
As we leave the trail and enter Salida I am fully tempted to call it a day. Bearing any weight on my foot is not an option, but letting my boot hold the bones together is. There are those that say the KLR does not have a very comfortable seat for long distances, but in my present state, I believe, it is a throne that Kings would compete over. There is too much to see, so stopping is not an option and we point our wheels towards County Road 200.
This is the way to Marshall Pass, an official portion of the TAT and a route that I have taken many times before. This familiarity allows me to ignore the GPS just long enough to miss a turn. Fortunately, I recover from the mistake without losing too much time and we are back on route. As I continue to try and shake the jitters from the wreck we slowly begin to pick up speed. The trail conditions are smoother as we head towards the summit. The Marshall Pass area is a bit more populated with campers and weekend fisherman, but as we ascend there are less and less people along the way. That is until a guy in a red truck comes out of nowhere. Soon he is right on our rear tires. He is so close that I can see his face and a wild look in his eyes. We continue to pick up speed and for a moment we lose the red truck and its pilot.
At the summit we pull over and try to figure out why he got up so close to us. It doesn’t take long for him to arrive and reveal his intent. Not being able to stand I do not dismount. He parks about 50 feet from where we are and hops out of his truck. His eyes are still wild, but I see that it is not out of aggression, but enthusiasm. Apparently, he is the guy who sold Luke the bike he is riding! He happened to be camping with his wife and saw us ride by. He immediately hopped in his truck to try to catch up with us and say hi. After a good laugh, and a couple of photos, we were on our way.
As we descend into Sargent’s it is apparent that we have lost a good amount of the day; not that it wasn’t apparent before, we are just now accepting it. It’s about 4:30 pm and tonight is one of the rare nights of our journey that we have a room reservation. We decide to hop on pavement and get to Ouray about 130 miles south of our current position.
After pushing through some serious rain, we arrive around 7:40 pm. Unfortunately, this paved detour means we have to forgo the Lake City portion of the TAT. It is a shame, because it is some of the most spectacular riding that Colorado has to offer. I have ridden it many times and feel bad for robbing Luke of this opportunity. However, I quickly learn that he is a go with the flow kind of guy, and is just happy to be riding. What a gift of a companion on this journey!
I treat Luke to a birthday dinner at one of my favorite eateries anywhere on the planet. The Bon Ton Restaurant in Ouray, Colorado in the St. Elmo Hotel. From the beginning of my planning, this was a destination that I knew had to be part of my TAT journey, having stopped here many times in the past. Luke and I take the time to get to know each other a bit more of a great meal. As he enjoys a rib eye, I watch as he turns 30 before my eyes. We have only known each other for a little over 24 hours, but I knew he couldn’t stay in his 20’s forever!