Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Independence of Aspen

Of course I had heard of Aspen and despite the fact that it truly is world famous, I didn’t see one sign proclaiming it so.

Almost all the way from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, I and a gaggle of other vehicles all drove at the speed limit, carefully observing all the laws of the road. This sudden observance of the law by all was caused by the local Sheriff, driving in the left lane at exactly the speed limit and not one person dared to overtake in the right lane. Not that I personally wanted to go any faster today – it was a pleasant ride with plenty to look at along the way.

I had seen on the map there was a long and winding road (wasn’t that a song?) that started immediately before I was to reach Aspen called Castle Creek Road that heads almost due south. It wasn’t on my route but I decided to give it a try anyway.

I smiled as I saw this sign....



But wait a minute, did that mean the road was twisty, or suffered from high wind? One would be good, the other not! I didn’t need to have worried for within a minute or so, I knew what message the sign was meant to give. Twisty! Rising slowly, the road starts at 7,900 feet (2410m) near Aspen up to just under 10,000 feet (3000m) before the road runs out 12 miles later. It was a fun ride, shared with no cars but quite a few cyclists whom I take my hat off to – that was a long rising road and their fitness was not in question. I turned around and rode back and at one stage I had a hard job to keep pace with a Kamikaze cyclist who was riding so fast down the mountain that he must have had a really good reason to get there that quickly. I pondered this for a while - a mistress or lunch was my conclusion. It was fascinating to see him lean over into the bends and I was amazed his marrow tyres (US = tires) gave so much grip. Eventually I found a straight piece of road and got passed him, probably only arriving in Aspen just before he did. I didn’t see his mistress, but I did look for somewhere to eat.

I didn’t know what to expect of Aspen. I had stopped on the way at the nearby Snowmass Ski Resort and took an instant dislike to it. The place was not at all welcoming and I couldn’t do as I usually prefer and ride around first to get a feel of the place before parking, as the only option they give you is to park some distance away and get a bus into the centre or park in a multi-storey car park first and then walk. I chose to do neither and decided Snowmass was not for me.

So, I rode into the nearby Aspen hoping it would be the same. I need not have worried for it was a grid of small tree lined streets, with a lot of people around, welcoming shops and restaurants and the best thing of all, loads of dedicated and free motorcycle parking bays. Cars had to pay to park. Smiles. Bobskoot would like this!

I took my camera for a walk and was rewarded with some nice pictures of the centre of the place....





















































I liked Aspen. I had lunch there (a delicious Salmon burger) and afterwards I strolled around the pedestrianised centre. It seemed a happy place with kids playing, people sitting outside and eating and generally it felt very relaxed. I liked this water-feature....













































And I laughed when I saw this really cool chopper styled bicycle with it’s ape hanger bars....



















The next corner I turned I saw this wonderful Chevy Corvette. Drool.....



















I love the front grille....



















I put my camera away and got back on my bike and headed out of Aspen, eagerly anticipating Independence Pass which was just up the road.

I was disappointed.

The road up to the pass looked fantastic on the map. It looked like mile upon mile of sweeping bends rising to 12,000 feet. I could imagine the joy of riding such a road with great views, but it wasn’t like that. The road was very narrow, often just one lane to be shared in both directions and the view was non-existent, spoiled by tightly spaced trees. Sure, it was a good ride, but not the great one I had anticipated.

I did stop at the summit....





















The views looking down were pretty good....







































I did see this couple on their Road King. I laughed at the dog in the bag on the back....





















On the way back down the mountain the other side of the pass, I stopped at Twin Lakes for a picture....



























I stopped for the night in Leadville, a small un-distinguished town that I heard once had 60,000 people living there and In the late 1800s, Leadville was the second most populous city in Colorado, after Denver. At 10,200 feet it is the highest incorporated city in the United States.

Now a shadow of its former grandeur, I did manage to find somewhere to stay and I ate at the only place in town that served food after 6pm.

The hotel is, err, odd. The Delaware
Hotel is a sort of a cross between a hotel and a museum, that sells mainly old furniture and clothes. I walked into the lobby to see row upon row of racks of clothes for sale and I wondered if I had gone into the wrong doorway. After quickly looking around I saw a sign pointing to the well hidden hotel registration desk and checked in. A very unusual place indeed!.....

The hotel sign....



























The lobby....





















An upstairs corridor....





















I did manage to find a great saloon though. Built in 1879, the Silver Dollar Saloon is a real piece of history. It looks as if it has hardly changed over the years.... (except the cars parked outside the fron)....



























Here is the back room....





















The barman told me the mirror behind the bar was still the original, now 131 years old – remarkable!

7 comments:

David Cloutier said...

Hey Gary! I love reading about your trip on your blog. It is really excellent. I stayed at the Delaware Hotel a number of years ago, and there was a rumor that some of the rooms are haunted. Did anyone at the hotel talk about that?

bobskoot said...

Gary:

I can't imagine free motorcycle parking. I would faint if they ever brought it here. Our city is cash poor, they charge for everything.

Your dislike of Snowmass Ski Resort is similar to my dislike of Whistler. I go out of my way not to go there. You have to park far away in parking lots and walk in. I much prefer a town with streets in grids lined with trees and FREE M/C parking would be a bonus.

I keep thinking of the Million Dollar Highway. We drove it a few years ago. Stayed overnight in Blanding, took Hwy 95 to Hanksville (lunch, what else?), Hwy 24 to Torrey, then South Hwy 12 through the Escalante, which is the Million Dollar Highway. Canyons on both sides described as the backbone of a dragon. Eventually ended up at Bryce Canyon, stayed at Ruby's. Go for the Steak dinner in the lodge.

Hmm, you made me hungry again

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

motoroz said...

I visited the Silver Dollar Saloon 4 years ago. It is a neat place. Leadville does not have a lot but, it is a historical place. More great sites are coming your way.

Eve said...

Gary I'm two posts behind!!!! I don't have time to read this one!!! Slow down will ya!!!! hahahahaha!! I'll be back...Who knows where you'll be when I get here to catch up!!!!!

Jackie, the Wife xx said...

Hi MD:

Obviously, these people at the early morning restaurants do not understand the repercussions, when you don’t get your breakfast. I would not have wanted to be the Hotel Manager that morning…!!... LOL

When you were telling me about the Delaware Hotel, (I don’t know why) but, the first thing that popped into my head was “haunted”……

I cannot believe that a responsible parent would let their child go that close
to a drop off. What were they thinking??

Am I blind as a bat, or is there a section of railway track missing on the Georgetown Loop Railroad railway bridge?? Is it an expansion bridge?? Way too SCARY for me to think about going over a crossing like that. I am too afraid of heights..!!..

Wonderful pics, as always …

Wishing you a “soft place to fall” at the end of your weary day, MD…

PS: Loved !!! the corvette.
I am thinking I may need one. :-)

Kz, xx >>>>>

Gary France said...

David – Thanks! I am pleased that you are enjoying my blog. No, no-one talked about that, but I am not surprised. It was a very strange hotel and if anywhere was going to be haunted, it would be that place!

Bob – The free parking, in special motorcycle bays, instantly made me think “Bob would like this”. I like to ride or drive through a town first in order to see what is there. The problem with Snowmass and Whistler too by what you have said, is you cannot do that. You cannot see what is there before you commit to it, so I don’t go to those places either. A few people have told me how great the Million Dollar Highway is. I can’t wait.

Oz – Historical yes. I really liked the Silver Dollar Saloon, as it was obviously steeped in history.

Eve – Sorry you have fallen behind in your reading!

Jackie – As you know, I like my breakfast! I didn’t hear or see any ghosts. I would like to, so I guess than is an odd item for my bucket list. No, there was nothing odd about the bridge, there was a support column behind the tree that is hidden, but looking at it now, I do agree with you that it looks odd! Hmmm, the Corvette was very nice.....kz.

Eve said...

Catching up now Gary! That is one strange hotel for sure and the Saloon is really interesting. Nice views on top of the mountain but the pup on the back of the bike....I would have to have my pup in the front of me!! You'd never know if he she fell off!!