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Road to Sturgis: Day 7 “Extremes”

Monument Valley STURGIS arizona long-distance

From desert heat to mountain storms, from sand to snow, from Indian to cowboy, from John Wayne to John Denver, from Monument Valley to the Rocky Mountains; that was our ride today.

It is day seven of our 3200km ride from LA to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on a Victory Cross Country Tour (press embargo lifted tomorrow) and it could not have been more extreme. From the brutal beauty of the red rock monoliths this morning, we headed east to Durango and then north into the Rocky Mountains where you can point a camera in any direction and get a pretty picture. Somewhere on this ride we ran out of adjectives, superlatives and two camera batteries in our vain attempt to capture the full scope of our 255-mile (410km) journey.

Rod and Scott sturgis
Rod and Scott

It started with an early rise to capture the sun rising over the Monument Valley icons in the Navajo indian reserve, then a quick suit-up and a ride around the other side to capture the sun hitting the oft-filmed monoliths from somewhere near where Forrest Gump stopped running.

The road that leads straight to the enormous rocks seems to beckon the weary motorcycle traveller. We wanted to turn around and do it all over again, but we satisfied ourselves with plenty of selfies and a long, last look.

Then it was on to Mexican Hat for breakfast where we met up with two Aussie doctors riding their Harleys across the desert in the other direction. Rod Corker (Deuce) and John Owens (Deluxe) gave us some tips on the road ahead as well as some great advice on attending Sturgis. “A lot of people switch off when they get there and that’s when accidents happen,” says John.

Thankful for the advice, we saddle up and head on through the desert which continues to throw more dramatic and brutal landscapes at us as we pass the Valley of the Gods and further on. The stunning beauty of this place just never lets up. At Aneth, we take a shortcut left toward the Hovenweep National Monument and when we see the sign that warns motorcycle riders about “curvy roads ahead” we know we’re in for some fun. The road follows a creek through a valley with gradually greener pastures, more stunning rock formations and finally a view of the Colorado Rockies ahead.

Doggy days sturgis
Don and Ellie

At Durango, we stop to take in the old town, the historic narrow-gauge railway, the cowboys in Main Street and meet Don Short and his biker dog, Ellie. “She’s been riding all her life,” says Don. Then it was on into the Rockies, past a horde of bikers at Cole’s Chop Shop and headlong into a short shower that finally gives some respite from the oppressive heat of the past week in the desert.

The fuel-injected Victory didn’t seem to balk at the steep climb, despite our heavy payload, and we steamed past other riders out enjoying this almost too-pretty alpine scenery. The tight and twisty corners are also a refreshing change from the long sections across the deserts. At Silverton, we stop in for an icecream, a look around the purportedly “highest Harley shop in the world” and a wander up the too-cute main street with its historic, vividly painted shops and ye olde signs. In summer, this alpine ski resort transforms into a biker and off-roader’s delight with the main street smelling of two-stroke fumes and reverberating to the sound of big V-twins.

This is the start of the famed Million-Dollar Highway on State Route 550 which includes the Red Mountain Pass, a 20-mile stretch of torturous twisties with no guard rails and precipitous drop-offs. Don’t go if you suffer vertigo. Seriously, it is very challenging and dangerous. A biker died here only recently. (I didn’t tell my wife about that beforehand. I figure it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.) Today there is no chance of going fast anyway as there is too much traffic.

Then a massive storm hits and we have nowhere to pull over and put on our wets, so we limp soggily into Ouray at the end of the stretch. By now out lexicon of adjectives and superlatives are exhausted, our camera batteries have died and we are worn out, wet and feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Red Mountain Pass Sturgis
Red Mountain Pass

Mrs MotorbikeWriter comments: “It’s all part of the adventure. Anyone can arrive in a car and you are just like anyone. But when you pull up on a bike after something like that or crossing the desert and dads and their sons look at you as if you are just so cool.” We’re spending the night in Montrose and haven’t yet made plans for tomorrow, so we’re open to any tips on our journey north.