Day 18 – 2018 Western States Tour


Day’s distance: 238 miles
Total trip distance: 3,379 miles (odometer)

Sunny skies and warm weather continued today with temperatures ranging from low 60s above 10,000 feet to high 80s at lower elevations. Winds picked up quite a bit as the day progressed and were blowing both me and bike around during the last two hours.

I rolled out of the motel in Durango about 9:30 and made a quick stop at Durango Roasters for a latte. I needed the energy as I woke up way too early!


I finally rolled out of town heading north at 10am. I was traveling north on Hwy 550 and in about 30 minutes, much of the traffic had fallen away and I found myself in the San Juan National Forest.


The highway climbed up from Durango’s 6,500 ft elevation to about 10,900 ft at Molas Pass Summit.


The section of Hwy 550 between Sliverton and Ouray is often referred to as the Million Dollar Highway. According to wikipedia

though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains.

Here’s a shot of the roadway cut out from the mountain side with steep drop-offs and no guardrails …


and one of the many hairpin turns.


I grabbed lunch in Silverton at the Brown Bear Cafe.


The building that houses the Brown Bear Cafe was originally built in 1893, according to the information on the back of the menu.


I shared my table with another biker, Brian, who hails from Oklahoma City.

Originally, I had planned to ride to Grand Junction today to then ride through Moab tomorrow. However, on reaching Norwood and taking a break for another latte at the Good Eats Cafe, I decided to skip both Grand Junction tonight and Moab tomorrow.

Instead, I altered my route to head straight to Blanding. This shortens my trip by one full day. I’ll return on another trip to spend some time in Moab when I’ve done more planning. I can feel myself running out of energy and getting home a little earlier will give me additional time to rest up before my June trip to Alaska. I think I’d also like to stay in Ouray sometime soon and hang out in the hot springs found there.

From Naturita to Blanding, the roads were lightly traveled and in good shape.


The wind was strong and, as mentioned, threw me and the bike around quite a bit. This did not contribute to my overall energy level. 🙁

Eventually I entered Utah …


and my motel for the night. It was good that I arranged this room while in Norwood because the Inn was full when I arrived at 6pm.


Below are a few more photos of the Million Dollar Highway.





Since 2014 when I entered Colorado on my Western States Tour, I’ve wanted to check this road off my bucket list. It is now checked!

Tomorrow I head west across southern Utah. High winds are projected for the day, again, but temperatures will be a bit cooler.

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