Four Corners Tour, Labor Day Weekend 2013

Just back from a five-day motorcycle tour of the Four Corners region, with overnight stays in Farmington NM, Ouray CO, Durango CO, and Flagstaff AZ.

Back in 1998 I drove through Durango on my way to a hashing event. It was about this time of the year, with beautiful weather and great riding conditions. There were motorcyclists and motorcycles everywhere I looked. I vowed to get back on my own bike some day. That it’s taken me fifteen years to get around to it … what is essentially a day ride from Tucson … does not redound to my credit. I really should have ridden Four Corners sooner, and in fact I should have been making the trip every year or two. I will from now on.

Good for me, I have hashing friends in Ouray, so I had lodging for the night there, plus a chance to catch up with them and find out what they’ve been doing all these years (I last saw them at that 1998 hashing event). Coincidentally, Labor Day weekend is when the Four Corners motorcycle rally is held, headquartered this year in Ignacio CO.

My friend and motorcycle maintenance guru Ed has ridden several Four Corners rallies and knows the area well, so he agreed to ride with me. On Thursday, Aug 29, we headed north from Tucson on back roads through Globe and Show Low AZ to Gallup and Farmington NM, where we spent the night. On Friday, Aug 30, we rode together to Aztec, Durango, Silverton, and Ouray CO, where I split off to stay with my friends (Ed rode on to overnight in Montrose). Saturday, Aug 31, we met at Ridgeway, just north of Ouray, for a circular ride to Telluride, Cortez, and back to Durango for the night, with a side trip to rally headquarters in Ingacio. Sunday, Sep 1, we rode through the Navaho Nation to Tuba City and on to Flagstaff AZ, where we spent the night at a military recreation center. Monday, Sep 2, we hit the freeway south for Phoenix and Tucson AZ. Total mileage: 1,500. Highest altitude reached: over 12,000 feet. Lowest temperature encountered: 64°F. Heaviest rainfall: outside Gallup and again just north of Flagstaff (we just missed a torrential storm leaving Tucson on the 29th).

What an absolutely awesome ride! Ed and I had a great time together, and it was wonderful seeing my friends Bruce and Tamara. The Rockies were spectacular, and so was the Million-Dollar Highway from Silverton to Ouray, a legendary road I’ve been hearing about for years. In fact so many people had told me horror stories about it I had a dream the night before riding it: in it the road looked like an oxcart trail carved into a sheer cliff face on the side of some Transylvanian Alp, the kind of path where if you meet someone coming from the other direction right-of-way is determined by who pushes the other party off the cliff first. In reality, it’s a gorgeous road, well-maintained and safe … so long as you pay attention to the 15 MPH hairpin turn warning signs.

For twenty or more years the Four Corners Rally has been a major southwestern USA regional biker event. Then, in 2011 and 2012, the rally was canceled after a dispute between organizers, town fathers, and Native American tribes. They were able to resolve their issues this year and the rally was back on, but to my eyes taking two years off dealt a major blow to the rally. Although the region was once again full of bikers and their rides, there was almost nothing going on at rally HQ in Ignacio, just a dusty tribal fairground with a few gypsy biker merchant tents stocked with leftover Sturgis t-shirts. There was more action at the Harley dealership in Durango … and you didn’t have to pay $15 to get in the door. But hey, like the other riders we saw over the weekend, we weren’t there for the motorcycle rally, we were there to ride the Rockies, and ride we did.

Apart from a burned out taillight, our bikes ran perfectly, and even seemed to enjoy going over 11,000- and 12,000-foot mountain passes. I’d love to do it again, and next time take Donna along for the ride. We could trailer the bike to Farmington (where Labor Day weekend motel rates are far more reasonable than in Durango) and base out of there for day rides in the Rockies. I’ll have to sound her out on that!

Meanwhile, here are some thumbnails. Click on them to see the full sized photos at Flickr. If you’d like to see my complete Four Corners photoset on Flickr, click here.

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Day 1: near Show Low AZ

2013-08-30 10.16.04
Day 2: near Durango CO

2013-08-30 10.34.31
Day 2: 11,000+ feet, 64 deg

2013-08-30 10.39.59
Day 2: Molas Pass

2013-08-30 10.50.53
Day 2: Silverton

2013-08-30 11.00.58
Day 2: maintenance

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Day 2: Bruce in Ouray

2013-08-31 07.13.45
Day 3: Tamara & Aspen

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Day 3: Telluride

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Day 3: Durango bound

2013-09-01 08.38.06
Day 4: Navaho Nation

2013-09-02 10.20.34
Day 5: haboob in Phoenix

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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