Colorado Trip #3

The Big Trip

As if the trip to Colorado wasn’t already a big trip… I’d ordered some maps before leaving home and had them sent to my friends place ahead of time. These maps by Butler Maps detailed all the objectively and subjectively ‘best’ roads in Colorado. These included both excellent paved roads, to terribly paved but great scenery, to downright awful dirt roads that had spectacular scenery most people would never see. I tried to cover as many of them as possible but I’d only given myself four to five days to do it as I was planning on heading home after completing the ‘big trip’. Had I known I’d be staying another week and a half longer I’d have done this over more time and explored more, but that’s not how it happened. Though, to be honest, being on some of these roads by myself was a little bit scary, far from help…

Day 1

I left as early as I could manage to wake up on the first day and made my way towards Golden, CO where I would take Clear Creek Canyon Rd to I-70. It was a good start, good pavement and lots of turns made for a fun little ride before hitting the Interstate. I got off the Interstate just after Dumont,CO and followed Alvarado Rd to Georgetown, CO. From Georgetown I took Guanella Pass which followed a creek and powerlines to Geneva Rd and followed that into Grant, CO. Much of Guanella Pass seemed to be above the 3,000-3,300 m mark or on the edge of the tree line and tundra. Along the way there were some rather wide open areas between the mountain tops where a couple of ranches with horses presided.

Powerlines cut through the mountain forest along Guanella Pass. Taken ~15 km away from Grant, CO along Geneva Rd. Some horses at a mountain ranch just north of Grant, CO along Geneva Rd. Taken along US-285, possibly around Fairplay, CO. 13 km along CR-22 heading into the Pike National Forest towards Weston Pass. Location: 39°5'7" N 106°5'54" W at an elevation of 3,029 m.

From Grant, CO I would take US-285 through the mountain plains through Fairway, CO to a little dirt road named boringly US-22. US-22 is the road traverses Weston Pass, the road itself peaks at around 3,600 m over the mountain range and comes out on US-24 south of Leadville, CO. This would be my first and worst mountain pass, at least in terms of road quality. The road starts out like any dirt road I’d seen, relatively smooth and manageable with the occasional washboarding effect you tend to get on these types of roads. As I continued on however everything seemed to get worse and worse, but the scenery better and better. But also, I got further and further from civilization, and that’s saying a lot at this point because even at the start of this road there’s very few ranches and homes around. To make matters worse I only saw three people the entire ride over the mountain ridge, but at least two of them were on motorcycles so I wasn’t the only idiot. Then again, they were riding together, I was the idiot alone without any experience whatsoever.

Taken somewhere along CR-22 over Weston pass. Starting to head down the otherside of Weston Pass, the road condition worsened. Location: 39°8'36" N 106°11'50" W at an elevation of 3,490 m. Road condition continuing to deteriorate over Weston Pass. Finally through the worst of it and back onto wonderful maintained gravel roads. Location: 39°9'45" N 106°16'30" W at an elevation of 2,946 m. Looking back towards Weston Pass, I believe, from somewhere off US-24.

The ride down the otherside of US-22 and Weston Pass was probably the worst road I experienced on the trip in terms of sheer vibration and bumpiness due to the rocks all over the place and the fact I was going down hill. The V-strom comes equipped with ABS brakes which are great on pavement but less than great on dirt and worse on rocks that you’re bouncing around on. This meant I essentially had no brakes, yes they would do something but very very little, so I used engine braking to do most of the retardation on the bike and this worked out well seeing as I and the bike survived. If I didn’t have the top case with Horo and my camera in it I probably could have gone faster as I was worried about the plastic case breaking off in all the rocks and vibrations. Given the rather weak rating the manufacturer gave the case I’m rather surprised it survived at all to be honest and quite happy it did.

I was super relieved to be done with Weston Pass and back on pavement when I hit US-24. Weston Pass was wonderful, the scenery was great, but being alone in that situation was probably a little bit stupid, and the road was a little bit beyond my poor skills, though as mentioned I did survive without issue, and I’m probably a better rider for it now as well.

Mt Princeton as seen from Buena Vista, CO. Location: 38°50'49" N 106°8'44" W This road seemed like a good idea at the time. However it ends being a road not too far from where this is. Location: 38°47'55" N 106°12'19" W Fortunately I was able to right the bike, though I had to take the top case off to do it. Easy peasy.

I continued down US-24 to Buena Vista where I’d be taking US-306 over some more mountains. However, before that I decided that I was going to try and get a photo of my motorcycle in front of this awesome mountain and lighting that was happening just west of Buena Vista. This turned out to be a mistake, the road I started following was a crappy dirt road (though not as crappy as Weston Pass) and eventually I decided with the weather changing I should get on with my trip and give up on this excursion. At this point I’d stopped and got off the bike and decided to roll it around back in the other direction. Unfortunately due to being on a hill and the weight being on the rear tyre, the front brake (the only accessible brake when off the bike) was next to useless on the gravel and the bike slid away from me, dropping it in the stupidest way. It was then I learned that I can in fact pick up my own motorcycle. I’d been worried this entire time having never had to do it and being alone that I might drop it and be stuck. Especially on these untraveled roads I kept taking. This ended up being a big relief, I laughed it off, found out I can actually lift the bike and that no damage had really been done. Good lesson to have.

I can't actually remember where this photo was taken. I believe along Cottonwood Pass. Somewhere. Taken along Cottonwood Pass where CO-306 a paved road becomes CO-209 an unpaved road. Horo's hair has gotten pretty messy by this point, but no time to fix it we're back on the road! Facing west off CR-209. Location: 38°50'30" N 106°24'52" W at an elevation of 3,700 m.

After picking it up and getting off the terrible road I hit US-306 and went over Cottonwood Pass which peaked an an elevation of ~4,000 m. This was paved for about half of it and then transitioned to a reasonably well maintained dirt road and was easy enough to travel along. Being a long weekend in the US it meant there were also a decent amount of people on this road, so I felt pretty safe in case something were to happen. Finally, nearing perhaps 7pm I took Horo out of the top case and took a photo of her where the road transitioned. I hadn’t taken her out all day as I kept telling myself I had lots of distance to travel and then Weston Pass was so exhausting. I probably should have taken her out on Weston and rested. Never the less I took her out finally and got a shot.

Facing north on the south end of Taylor Park Lake. Location: 38°49'16" N 106°35'5" W at an elevation of 2,876 m.

At the end of Cottonwood Pass there was a reservoir and some nice paved roads, so I stopped again and took Horo out. From this point on however it was torturous. For a while I had these great paved roads and everything was awesome but then … construction. Something that would plague me numerous times on the trip but never like this. Normally when they tear up a road it’s hard packed and easy to ride on. This time there was a pilot truck and he says to me “It might be a little gushy at times but it should be fine.” Yeah… It was a foot thick freshly graded like, gravely mud. That went on for what seemed like miles and miles. As we were following the grader it was slow and I couldn’t ride that slow and maintain the momentum required to stay up. So I stopped, frequently. Then I’d catch up and stop again. I should have taken a photo of the trail behind me, it was easy to tell I was struggling, there wasn’t a single part of it that was straight or where the rear wheel followed the front for more than a couple feet.

Finally quite late I ended up in Gunnison, CO and crashed at a Super 8 or something. I’d intended to camp most of this trip but I was way too exhausted to bother on this night, and figured I’d need the rest for the next day.


  1. Tian says:

    Wow, this was an epic post indeed. You’ve inspired me to plan another road trip! It’s unfortunate that I missed you just as I was gearing up for NDK. That was a good time, and somehow I completely missed all the flooding. Anyway, great photos as usual. You’ve really gotten a knack for sweet landscapes and outdoors photography. Hope to see more!

    • Aka says:

      Yeah, it’s too bad it didn’t work out, but I’m sure I’ll be there again next year or something. Too many things I’d like to ride still.

      Landscape photography is so much easier than people photography lol. You can just keep shooting until it works out, people you have to catch just right or ask them to pose etc… I feel the same way with dolls as well, have to really think out the pose, which I didn’t do too well on the trip. I think I got better as time went on but maybe next time I’ll be good.

      Missing out on the flooding isn’t a bad thing, especially if when you returned your place of residence was fine too.

  2. Smithy says:

    Looks like you had quite the adventurous trip!

    Gorgeous photos of that stunning scenery and some lovely shots of Horo too. Impressive!

    • Aka says:

      It really was quite an adventure. I still think it’s crazy how much ground I covered though on my “Big Trip” part, it was just destination after destination after destination. Was really hard to piece it all together after the fact, the only way I managed was I’d saved the GPS tracks so I could track back each day and break them apart.

      Hopefully next time I go, I’m a little bit more competent with my posing and can make Horo look a little bit more into the trip than sitting all the time. Still, I like the photos, it adds something over just plain landscapes I think.

  3. Rajura says:

    Great pics man!

    Looks like you had you had a great trip!

    I loved the Horo shots… I was kind of scared for her in a couple of them, but I know you made sure she was safe before you left to take them.

    Also, regarding your experience with the kid, I am glad to see there are other males out there that like her fluffy tail almost as much as me.

    Pros of your shots: It’s Horo, shots from behind… loved seeing her tail in all its glory and that she was unabashedly showing it off, new outfits for Horo.

    Cons: Human ears visible at times (that’s the only con… doing pretty good there)

    Oh, and those images are coming your way soon.

    • Aka says:

      Was a great trip indeed! I miss the state already.

      I did try and take as much care as I could with all the placements, but once I walk away there’s no telling what could happen. Would one of her joints give way, would the wind pickup, I am on mountains after all where weather changes rapidly. So many uncontrollable variables, I just had to give way and try anyway.

      As per your con, I’ve actually become to accustomed to the ears being there, that I don’t notice at all or even try to hide them ever. It’s just not something I care about so much at this point. Perhaps in making her ‘perfect’ in the end, but right now I care more about getting her tail attached properly and perhaps better matched to her hair, and shrinking her ears and putting magnets in them so that they’re easier to deal with on the road. The human ears really are the last thing on the list since it’s such a destructive mod.

      Interestingly, the people who seem most disapproving of Horo (and Dollfies in general) are anime fans and figure collectors. They seem to feel the doll is too much of the uncanny valley or RealDoll vibe. Which strikes me as really odd, since every doll meet I attend, and every outing I’ve been on, average people seem so interested and complimentary.

      • Rajura says:

        Wow, that is weird… my philosophy… the more real Horo looks… the better!

        I would that “average people” liked her more than a niche group.

        Keep up the good work!

        • Aka says:

          The more real the better, yes. But in terms of what’s more important to me right now, the human ears are like the bottom of the list. Her tail and animal ears bother me more that they’re not right. The human ears require destructive modification that can’t be undone.

          Think you missed a word in that second line, not sure what exactly you meant. Could go many ways if I try and read into it.

          • Rajura says:

            Sorry tried to go a little long more older style on that comment… read it as “If I had my way, more average people would be interested in her.”

            Also, the “weird” part I mentioned pertained to your comment about people who were seemed more likely to not like the current approach to Horo. Keep up the good work; fix those wolf ears and that tail to your standards.

          • Aka says:

            Ah I see. I’m alright with anime being a niche thing. I don’t think it’d be as fun if everyone knew.

            As for the weird, I think there’s just some stigma about dolls, and they don’t want to be caught liking one.

      • CptNerd says:

        Beautiful job, the few times I’ve been to CO the scenery was fantastic (I was there during the flooding, my great-nephew was supposed to get married that weekend in Estes Park). As for your Horo doll, you have to understand that every person has their own “uncanny valley”: for example, I have no problem with the CGI “Appleseed” movies, but my friend can’t watch more than a few seconds of them, because they fall into his discomfort zone. Your version of Horo is okay by me, but there are some aspects that are just on the edge for me. I have to say there are quite a few dollfies that I’ve seen that I can’t see, they’re just too far “into the valley” for me. But then I was always creeped out by the “sad kids on black velvet” paintings…

        • Aka says:

          I find they’re far less creepy in person. That added dimension I guess really helps. And once I’d seen them in person, I found most of the photos to be less creepy than they were beforehand. I think it’s the unfamiliarity perhaps.

          I suspect I’ll be making a habit of visiting Colorado… I just hope there isn’t a disaster every time. There were the fires, and then the floods… what next?

          Anyhoo, glad my Horo is ok by you! 😀

  4. Otakusan says:

    Have been seeing all your instagram pictures ^^ looked like you had a lot of fun this trip ^^

    • Aka says:

      Started taking the shots with my phone just to get the GPS coordinates of each location. Ended up posting them on Instagram because I couldn’t wait to share haha.

  5. B-Sabre says:

    The air base is Buckley AFB ( and is home to the 460th Space Wing (Air Force Space Command). There’s also Colorado National Guard and Air National Guard units based there.