As a belated birthday gift to myself, I pointed the truck west again. It never gets old.
The obligatory first stop at one of my favorite rest stops near Alanreed, TX. This is only accessible from the westbound side (the eastbound rest stop is neat too, but this one has the cool view!).
It also has a windmill inside.
Sunset over the Texas panhandle. The pastels were incredible.
Upon the suggestion of my good friend, Mr. Charles Bartrug, I opted to slip just west of Amarillo and cruise up the apparently infamous Tascosa Road. Though it was dark, Tascosa Road was a real treat! I could see some of the mesas in the twilight and enjoyed the winding adventure through the west Texas landscape. I also listened to 'Frenchy McCormick' by the artist Red Stegall to really set the mood. It was fantastic to hear the story of Tascosa, TX! I'd love to get back out here on my motorcycle and rip Tascosa Road in the daytime. Thanks for the beta Charlie!!
The next stop, where I'd stay before heading north into Colorado, was Raton, NM. I found an AirBnb at a true bed and breakfast. Nestled in an 1850s Victorian, Heart's Desire was a great opportunity to stay in a place that is a bit atypical for me.
The stairwell leading upstairs sounded exactly as one would expect it to...and was charmingly fitting.
I was directed to stay in the 'Patriotic Room.' It was definitely true to form. I think I said the Pledge of Allegiance a couple of times in my sleep. (Just kidding - I actually slept like an absolute rock...better than I have in weeks).
A very ornate claw-foot tub was in the shared bathroom. Notice the lack of a shower? Yea...I did too. The next morning involved an acrobatic feat of balance as I'm not really a bath person, especially in a shared...well....yea....I'm just not a bath person. To my credit, I got completely clean and sacrificed only the slightest amount of water to the floor. I wanted to let everyone know, but it seemed oddly inappropriate.
Breakfast is served. Barbara was an excellent host and made a mean waffle! Fresh fruit and orange juice were a nice touch.
Remember how I said I slept like a rock? As I sat down to breakfast, a nice couple from Amarillo, Andy and Rachel if my mind serves me, came downstairs....with their sweet baby boy in tow.
"Umm...there was a baby here last night?" I inquired shortly after the 'good morning' formalities. "I had absolutely no idea."
"Oh really, because he was fussy all night," Rachel offered apologetically and with genuine concern.
"Seriously...I never heard a peep. I was out cold," I assured her. "Like....out."
I think I needed the rest.
When I stayed in Raton back in November (only a few blocks away from Barbara's), there were deer on the sidewalk. This time in Raton....there were deer on the sidewalk.
Barbara's ferocious dog, Guinness. Terrifying.
The house was pink. It could have been no other color.
The obligatory photo at Raton Pass. I can't resist it!
Jamming north on I-25. If you put your ear up to the screen, you can hear Tom Petty blasting from the Tacoma's speakers. Go ahead and try it.
Instead of taking the obvious route towards Denver, I cut west towards Canon City. Just before the town proper is Highway 67 that leads north. It was a cute little line on the map...right up my alley. Game on.
After maybe five or six miles, the sign appeared that changes a drive into a drive....
I had unintentionally stumbled onto Phantom Canyon, and I had no idea the treat I was in for!
The first tunnel! One lane of course.
One of the countless views. The road ranged from slide-inducing smooth gravel to jaw-rattling washboard. I began to think that my tires were octagonal rather than circular. The Tacoma took a beating but held strong! However, everything in the truck, that wasn't bolted to the truck, ventured to a variety of new locations.
Tunnel number two.
The weather was fabulous! (more on that to come...hence the title) I'd say low 60s all day. I never put on a jacket and drove much of the road with the windows down.
Further along were stretches with leftover snow.
One of several plank bridges. I should have taken a photo from afar as this bridge was quite high above the canyon!
The drops along the side were steep and long.
Heading north...and heading up!
Just shy of 10,000 feet!
The view from Alta Vista. Back behind the sign in the previous photo was a very expansive ranch house, set far back from the road. This is their view. I was only slightly jealous.
Exiting the canyon brought me into the tiny mining town of Victor, CO and a return (for the time being) to asphalt.
Historic Downtown Victor.
Just west of Victor was Cripple Creek, CO, another 1800s mining town. Sadly it is now home to a number of casinos. It was still charming nonetheless!
Read the sign punk! ~ Mitch Hedberg
After cutting through Woodland Park, I continued north on Highway 67 through Deckers, CO, then found myself following the South Platte River for a time. There were a lot of fishermen along the route. The elegance of watching someone cast a fly rod in a frigid Colorado river was a gorgeous ballet not to be missed.
True to form, the highway conditions....changed. I was fine with that.
Ice shelves along the river. After following the river for a while longer, I began to get on larger roads, eventually making my towards Conifer....and then the west Denver suburb of Lakewood.
The first stop in Lakewood was at Breeze Ski Rentals to pick up this gem. I had big plans for Saturday.
I headed south through Lakewood to my cousin's house, for an evening filled with good food, great beer, and even better conversation. I'm very grateful for my family.
Throughout the evening on Friday, the temps continued to drop.
5:45am - Saturday - Lakewood, CO. Things were about to get real.
I jammed on I-70 west out of the Denver metro as the snow continued to fall. It was, as they say, a powder day.
Loveland Valley Ski Resort! I needed this in a bad bad way. A typical hour's drive was doubled due to the hunt for fresh powder. I was glad I left as early as I did! Thankfully I had plenty of time and still arrived before the lifts began running for the day.
Up we go. Look at that untouched powder! I had the pleasure of riding that pristine snow....all....day. It never let up.
Shaun White on the ski lift.
Just kidding. That's me. It isn't Shaun White.
I rode and rode and rode. Since I only had one day, I had to make the most of it....which meant spending as much time as I could on the slopes. I never went down to the base at all. After several hours of carving through the power, I finally ducked into a mid-mountain warming hut to eat some of the food I had stashed throughout my jacket.
This started the day as a sandwich. It still got the job done.
Stopped for a mid-mountain photo. The snow hung tightly to the trees despite the strong winds.
A bit blurry, but I included this shot because you can just see the cut of Interstate 70 above the empty chair behind me. Loveland sits right before the Eisenhower Tunnel and the slopes actually run atop the highway's path through the mountain.
The top of the Ptarmigan Lift. As the day faded, I stayed primarily on this lift. I didn't want to waste any time transitioning across the mountain, so I opted to just keep taking laps here to maximize my time on the solid downhills and less time traversing the nearly flat greens from one lift to another.
Getting ready to drop down for another run!
Loveland also sits right at the continental divide, which is the ridge above. Just after snapping this pic, I tucked my phone away and zipped downhill in the same direction as that skier. So awesome!
Back down at the base after a fun-filled day of riding! The crowd thinned throughout the day and made for an easy drive back into Denver.
Yes....that is ice. No, it isn't snot. One can only dream.
Also - that blue Buff around my face...frozen solid. I wasn't totally sure I was ever going to be able to remove it.
I actually gave the day two thumbs up, but one hand had to take the picture! It was epic.
Cruising back east on 70 near Idaho Springs. I made a quick stop to drop off my equipment and snag a burrito for the drive. After a day full of cold-hardened granola bars, water, and pre-chewed PB&J....it seemed only fitting.
Back in Lakewood! The metro area continued to get snow throughout the day as well. It sure was a sight. Another great evening with family! Everyone was whipped from our various activities, so heads hit pillows pretty early.
Sunrise over eastern Colorado. It was so cold, my windshield washer lines froze! I had to pull over a couple times to sacrifice some drinking water and glovebox napkins. Always remember, safety third.
Chasing a snowplow into western Kansas. The snow slowed traffic a bit, but I still ended up making pretty good time.
Passing a westbound KDOT plow. That's some nasty snow, but it was cool to see it being launched!
Fueling up the unit in McPherson, KS. I really love traveling in this truck. It took a beating this round, but got back up and kept fighting!
The dirty dog back in Oklahoma City!
A lot of driving for one day on the mountain? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Time to go un-nasty the truck.