Overland Motorcycle Trip: The Southwest United States Part 1

Posted by Justin Lewis on Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mitch had finished work on Friday, October 7 and the Team was ready to ROCK! La Torguga y El Tractor were licking their chops in the garage, yearning for the open road and for their overland motorcycle trip to really start. There were only a few small items to tie up and the Boys would be ready to hit the road early Sunday AM! Saturday was another day in the garage w/ Ben, making final preparations to the bike. Justin flushed his brakes and adjusted his pre-load while Mitch had to completely strip down EL TRACTOR to install some new, sweet, heated handle bars. After the garage, the fellas wandered over to the local watering hole (Vine Street) for a final beer with their Pit Crew Captain, Ben. The beers flowed and the discussion meandered….

FUCK!!!!!!! Mitch had a moment of clarity (about 3 beers in) and realized he had not yet received his Debit Card, despite his bank promising an overnight delivery the previous Tuesday. GOD BLESS! The Team was now 99.99% ready. That debit card meant a lot to the trip, it allowed Mitch to not pay ANY ATM fees the whole trip. Imagine, if you will, how this would severely cut into the taco fund! Sunday came and went, all the Boys could do was kneel in the living room and pray to the FedEx gods.

The extra day actually became beneficial as we wrapped up loose ends. Would we be here a day, a week? It was getting cold and we needed to get get south! In between packing and making breakfast every time one of us walked past the front door we did a FedEx mating call hoping the stork would deliver. Our cutoff for a Monday departure was approximately 2:30 – 3:00 PM as we were trying to make it 158 miles to a cabin outside Salida (thanks Ken!). At around noon, Justin and Tyler were taking Tina’s car to the shop. For some reason as we left the house all three gentlemen walked out together. Maybe it was intuition? The FedEx man steps out of the truck shocked by the site of three grown men doing backflips. It was game on, the card had arrived!!


We scrambled and shoved the remaining items into our duffel bags and panniers as quickly as possible before hastily making our departure towards Salida. Hasta Luego, Denver! The drive was one we’ve done numerous times on HWY 285 southbound towards HWY 50.  However, it felt different this time.  We both knew that this was the beginning of something that neither of us could quite comprehend.  Leaving our family, friends, and most of our possessions behind this simultaneously was a joyous and saddening moment. 

  We rolled into the cabin slightly before dusk and grabbed a good nights sleep. The cabin was well equipped yet off the grid.


The Team was up early the following morning ready to head to Pagosa Springs to meet up with some local friends for the evening. Little did we know that CO would show us all four seasons within the first couple hours on the road! But first things first, we had our first bike drop! As we were pulling out of the cabin, Mitch got a little a head expecting Justin to be close behind…He got to the closest intersection, and waited, and waited, finally returning back to the cabin a couple minutes later to see Justin laughing at himself for dropping the bike while standing still on flat ground, picking it up and subsequently dropping it on the other side! Back to the weather, when we first pulled into Salida it was raining, and then the sun came out, and then it rained again and then the sun came out…Can we get some consistency here! Things cleared up outside Saguache but got a little windy until we got to the WOLF CREEK PASS ascent. The scenery was beautiful but the temperature began to drop, fast! When we reached the summit believe it or not it was snowing! Mitch took a moment to snap a quick pic with his camera while they both did jumping jacks to stave off frost bite (it was damn cold!). They busted off the summit and within minutes the temperature was back in the 60’s. There was only one reasonable explanation for the today’s weather…Colorado was drunk again!! As they came down into the Pagosa Springs Valley the view of the Aspens were incredible! Stopping at a pull off, the fellas joined other onlookers to snap some photos of the breathtaking scene. The aspens had been beyond peak for most of our drive, but the Valley was a kaleidoscope of colors. Some of the best aspen groves we’ve ever seen.


  Finally in the town of Pagosa Springs, the Team met up with one of Mitch’s hometown buddies. They all went out to his house and joined the team (Peter & Bri (not pictured), Nova, Cozmo, and Lola) for some beers and a delicious home cooked meal! THANKS AGAIN FOR THE HOSPITALITY PETER AND BRI!

The next morning we got a slower than expected start which we can thank to the copious amounts of beers. However, this is one of the joys of having a “no timeline/early retirement” type adventure. We enjoyed the creature comforts of the house well past mid-morning having a nice breakfast before continuing further southwest towards Mesa Verde National Park. The scenery changed drastically from jagged mountains to high altitude desert with a majority of the driving being lined by colorful fall foliage. Once in Mesa Verde we quickly signed up for a 4 PM tour of the Balcony House cliff dwellings (for $4, why not??). The park seemed seldom visited, but way surpassed our expectations. We met David NightEagle, a googly-eyed 68 year old 20+ year park ranger, and his thirteen year old volunteer Cannon. From the get-go the charisma and passion David exuberated was contagious. He explained the hike and the history behind the cliff dwellings before the group descended 92 stairs into the 11th Century, before climbing the 32-ft ladder up into the dwellings where we got a chance to step back in time and see and learn about the communities that once thrived here.


At the conclusion of the tour David, who makes his own flutes, played us a song leaving a lasting and magical impression over Mesa Verde. We left Mesa Verde shortly before sunset in search of free camping on BLM land thanks to the advice of the park rangers.



We were only four days into the trip but it felt like weeks! We had already seen and done so much. It was sensory overload. From Mesa Verde we continued on towards northern Arizona/southern Utah to explore the slot canyons. As we descended the heated handle bars were shut off/the second pair of gloves were shed and the warmth was much welcomed. The scenery became flat, dry, and desolate.  At first, we both cruised right by the 4-corners exit.  The signage was dilapidated and we were both expecting more, however, it was fun to play tourist and take some photos before continuing onward. The four corners monument was on Native American land and thus they charged $5. The monument was surrounded by stalls manned by the local Natives which were selling a bunch of tacky touristy shit.

From the four corners we continued to Page, Arizona, where we regrouped and tried to determine where to go. Realizing we had run out of time to make it further towards the slot canyons we decided we would spend the night in Page. There was one free campsite close to town, but in order to get in we would have had to battle sand dunes that rival the Sahara…NOPE! Instead we stayed right in town at the Page Lake Powell Campsite, reasonably priced and had all the amenities. Before heading to the site we drove out to Horseshoe Bend for our first glimpse of the Colorado River. The contrast of colors was stunning. It was touristy and way busier than what Justin had seen 5 years ago, but still stunning. Despite not doing much, Page ended up being a fun stop as we met some great people. Eugene at Horseshoe Bend, who was a recent grad relocating from California to Chicago sleeping in his car and exploring along the way, and Tessa and Brook at our campsite, who were on a 2-3 month road-trip of the US. We had a fun night of swapping stories and playing cards with the girls at camp.


  When we awoke the next day little did we know what the dirt road to Wire Pass would have in store for us…deep sand, rocks, and coyote hunting were to be in our future.