Phil arrived at ~6 pm last night, Thursday, after riding 2,100 miles from Washington, DC. We started catching up up over beers in the hotel bar followed by excellent tapas in downtown Santa Fe. It was really good to see him again. First time in two years, since we parted ways on his West-to-East ride, freezing in Lubbock, TX. I didn’t have a heated vest then, I do now, used today in earnest for the first time.
It rained overnight, was cold this morning, and the weather forecast was quite menacing. I zipped in my pants’ legging inserts, put on the heated vest, and repacked the bike so that weather protection gear was easy to get to. We were togged up like butterballs (Phil’s word, a good one) when we left at around 9:30 am.
It’s a beautiful 150 mile ride from Santa Fe to Pagosa Springs going WNW, but it’s all between seven and eight thousand feet altitude. The rain was tolerable. When it started to snow, the view through the visor made me think I was skiing. Eventually we stopped and plugged in our heated vests. Bliss, my first winter test, and it works. No snow on the road so we ploughed on through quite lovely scenery. I just didn’t want to get the camera out in the wet and the cold, so no photos. Too busy wiping sleet and rain off the visor of my helmet in order to see where I was going.
When we got to Pagosa Springs at midday and unplugged our vests we immediately started shivering. Inside a restaurant they gave a warm welcome to these two drowned rats. The lovely woman at the counter put her arms around Phil to try and stop him shivering. We spent quite a while there over lunch and coffee, drying out and warming up, until we felt ready to leave. It was dry outside, so we thought things had improved.
Just outside the town, after only a mile or two, hail started rattling in my face. Then the road suddenly went white. It took a second or two to notice that we were riding on snow and slush. I looked in my mirror and saw Phil’s bike was on its side in the road. I pulled over, it seemed to take ages to stop the bike and put it on the side stand. I ran back and a couple of guys had already stopped to help. Phil was unhurt but shaken. We lifted the bike and got it out of the way of traffic. It was scraped and scratched but nothing seemed broken.
It had happened out of the blue. We were stopped at the side of the road now and weren’t sure what to do. The traffic slowed and started to snarl up because of the snow and sleet. We stood there trying to decide on the best course of action. In several minutes snow ploughs came past one after the other like they’d all just got a call. We decided to leave the bikes there and to take shelter in the hope the storm would pass. We walked to a coffee shop about a quarter mile away, and waited it out. We could even see what had happened in retrospect on radar on our smart phones. The storm did pass, the road became passable again, and although we came close to stopping overnight, we pushed on to Durango, on dry roads thank goodness.
Folks in the restaurant had told us that Red Mountain pass between Durango and Ouray was going to get a foot of snow tonight. Radar and weather forecasts basically ruled out any route through the mountains in the next day or two. We’d have to take a safer, southerly route to Moab and La Sal and hope the weather didn’t still stop us. We were not going to ride in snow again after today.