A little Independence
for July 2004

By Clifford Meier
February 6th, 2004


February 06, 2004 - I am sure you have noticed the Independence Pass Ride information on the event page for the Colorado Ride in July.

If you are unfamiliar with the ride or area, you may decide to check it out, and see what it has to offer you.

You see a few mountain passes and the towns of Leadville, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs. It captures your attention.  Interesting you think, it may have some possibilities, so you check into it further. And then you see it. The BIG NUMBER! 385 MILES. Oh no Mr. Bill!

Let me tell you of my experience doing this ride, and what I think about that daunting number 385.

We did this ride for the first time last year in June. Carol and I had really wanted to ride to Leadville for quite some time, and on a spur of moment idea, this seemed like a good time to try it. Seeing the mileage, we tried several ways to shorten it up, but none of the shortcuts took us in the area we wanted to go.

A few of the local VTX Riders were going for Brunch in Black Hawk and then off on various short rides. Several ideas were in the mix, but nothing very specific. Carol and I mentioned we were going to Leadville, and a few asked about our plan. Comments like, are you sure, and WOW that is a long day ride, were voiced.  But that was the plan and we were sticking to it. We enjoyed the Colorado definition of buffeting and the seven or so interested riders, joined us on our little adventure.

So here we are leaving Black Hawk, it was pushing noon, and we were off on a full day ride of 385 miles. A bit of a late start, a long ride, unfamiliar route and we did not know quite what to expect.  Sounds like the perfect beginning to a perfect day. Nothing will deter us from our mission!

We take Hwy. 119 to I-70 and on to Frisco. It is a quaint little town that as late as 1946 only had a population of 50 and then came the ski industry. Today it has 2800 residents and hosts 3 million slat rats a year.  Town of Frisco

We take SR-91 and head south for our main objective of Leadville and find a very unexpected surprise. That little thing called Fremont Pass. We climb to a chilling 11,318 feet seeing the Continental Divide like you never saw it before. What an awesome sight to see, it will give you a picture and memory that will last for years to come.  Information on Fremont Pass

Continuing on down SR-91 we find Leadville the highest incorporated city in the continental United States at 10,152 feet above sea level. Unlike most old west towns it was never really a cowboy town. It was settled by miners and merchants, and most of the buildings standing today were built between 1880 and 1905.  History of Leadville

Leaving Leadville we take US-24 to SR-82 and this route can not be described in words.  It must be experienced first hand. You go by Twin Lakes and just when you think you have a sensory overload from the scenery, you find this little thing called Independence Pass. A small climb to 12,095 feet and a chill is in the air. At least it is fair to say, I had MAJOR goose bumps! In a word…Spectacular!  
Photographs of Independence Pass

At the base of the pass you come into Aspen. Nothing amazing about Aspen really, it is just a quiet little town. We grabbed a bite to eat, walked around a bit, and we kept hearing a “ching – ching” sound. We thought it was all the money making the noise, but found if was just Jack Nicholson beating a Mercedes hood with his golf club. No biggie, time to move on.

We stay on SR-82 and take an enjoyable ride into Glenwood Springs. Glenwood is known for its Hot Springs, Caverns, and a spectacular little spot, called Hanging Lake. It has a population of around 8,000 residents year round and for a tourist type area, it really can be enjoyed.
Glenwood Springs

We pick up I-70 here and head for home, where we find another pleasant surprise called Glenwood Canyon. The highway itself is amazing to see, 4 lane with two levels built through this canyon. Add to that, the incredible ride and scenic slow sweeping corners.  You just set your pace, lean back and enjoy the ride… You know, that moment in time when you relax and find all is right with the world.

We returned home somewhere close to 10 hours later and none the less for wear. It had been a great ride shared with special friends.

After the ride, we talked nonstop about our experience for two weeks. Finally I told Carol, we live in Colorado, and we see these mountain roads all the time. Why are we still talking about this one? What is so special that we can’t stop thinking about it? Two weeks later, enough talking, we reversed the direction and decided to do it again. Once and for all, we would end this nagging feeling; we would get it out of our mind. NOT!

In an effort to include others in our passion for this route, we rode it in August one more time. We dubbed it the End of Summer Ride, when the chill of autumn was in the air and the trees were changing. This has truly become one of our favorite rides.

Now the question before you is this. Are you ready to take this short 385 mile jaunt with us in July 2004 and find your own passion for this route? Let us know, we are ready to do it again.

Until we ride again ...

Independence Pass Picture Collage