Great Continental Divide Adventure Ride

Day 4 - Abiquiu, New Mexico to Del Norte, Colorado

CDR day 4 mapThe planned route for the day was 188 miles with no gas along the way.  However, as was starting to be expected, these circumstances changed as the day progressed, with unpredictability being the only thing that was predictable.

After the mud experiences the previous couple of days, our team decided to get an early start in order to try to outrace any afternoon thunderstorms.  But this strategy ended up also having some flaws, not taking into consideration the apparently heavy rains that pelted the mountains the night before.  The first 40 miles of the Carson National Forest tended to be quite pleasing, but slippery in places due to mud. 

After getting through a few particularly tricky areas and some minor crashes (see a frame grab from my bike's GoPro of me flying off the bike during one crash), the situation went from tricky to impassible after the route crossed just north of Highway 64.  It took our team a couple of hours to extract ourselves from this situation, with the mud caking up on every bike.  Even those with clearance on the front wheels had problems due to mud getting wedged in the rear wheels or chain guard.  For one rider (Rich) on a KTM 990 jammed with mud with the rear wheel unable to turn without smoking the clutch, we had to get it up on the center stand on order to break it free and turning again. Pushing each other’s bikes and lots of clearing it by hand was necessary to get out of it, turning around and back to drier land.  In hindsight, hitting the area a few hours later may have been better, allowing for this stuff to dry out more?

By the time we escaped this mud, all of the teams had bunched up.  We then decided the best option would be to hit the asphalt to Charma, have lunch and get gas, and then rejoin the dirt at the Colorado border.  On the way into town we had another sobering experience, passing an accident scene (with the police and ambulance already there) with crashed motorcycle upside down (Goldwing?) about 100 feet off the road with a dead rider nearby covered by a sheet.

Crossing into Colorado from New Mexico was a surprising shift.  The terrain changed to one much more mountainous and rocky, with more snow, green, and beautiful aspen trees, but without that clay-like mud that all of us were growing to loathe.  The scenery is gorgeous, with more open and fast roads.  However, there also tends to be more traffic.  While in New Mexico it was rare to encounter other vehicles, in Colorado there is a lot more traffic in the form of campers or oil and mining trucks.

Many of these roads in the Rockies of Colorado have a fair amount of gravel, which is good for minimizing the impact of mud and going faster, but requires a more careful attack in the corners to maintain traction.  It is tempting to take the center line through the corners in order to take advantage of the berm there, while also benefiting by some margin to the shoulder.  But the danger with this approach is dodging incoming traffic going in the other direction that often used the whole road, and typically when you least expected it.  One of the riders in our group (Jon) on a KTM 1190R ended being a casualty of this situation about 20 miles from our destination at Del Norte, running head on into the front grill of an oil truck going too fast and in the middle of the road the other way.  He ended up breaking his leg and arm, but otherwise was able to get up and remain lucid through the situation.  With no cell phone coverage, and after picking up the bike and various pieces, I ended up riding down the mountain into Del Norte to notify the group of what happened and to bring the truck up to recover it. The others of our small team accompanied him to the hospital, with the other driver giving him a ride in his truck.  Jon was back at the hotel a few hours later with his leg and arm in a cast, and his bike on the ride truck ready to be dropped off the next day at a KTM shop in Gunnison.  The police interviewed both sides at the hospital later, but did not lay specific blame on either, and seemed miffed that we had moved the bike off the road.  But to us, we didn't see much a choice given it was at an apex of a blind corner out in the middle of nowhere, and frankly neither side was interested in escalating the matter.

Later, we learned that Jon's 1190R was considered totaled after the KTM shop looked at it.  By now, we had two casualties, with one other rider (Jay) on an R1200 GS deciding to also bail after also visiting the hospital and concluding a severe contusion to his leg in a previous crash back a few days earlier was getting worse, risking possible infection, and aggravated by further riding.

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