Episode 45: Motorcycling to Glen Echo: Lunch and Other Amazing Things

Episode 45:  Motorcycling to Glen Echo:  Lunch and Other Amazing Things

I could hear those motorcycles coming my direction.  They had to be going fast!  Echoing down through the canyon on that steep dirt road.  There’s no guard rails up there!  Slide off the road and you're a goner.  Coming my way.  Coming really fast!  Those engines screaming.  Two KTM’s roared up and parked near my bike, right next to the outdoor table where I was having breakfast up there in that mountain village.  2 matching KTM 500 Enduros.  The riders, also in matching KTM off-road racing gear.  Klim adventure helmets as I recall, neck braces, KTM jerseys, enduro pants and boots.  Oh yes, these two were pros.  They knew how to ride. 

And the shock that ran threw me when they pulled their helmets off….?  

Wow, you’ve got to be kidding me!!!    Ha ha,   I’ll tell ya about it.  Stay tuned!

I love to share with you where I love to ride here in Colorado.  For over 25 years, I’ve been riding these twisty mountain roads.  Always stopping for a good breakfast or another look at some completely amazing view down over a canyon or up to a snow capped mountain peak.  

One such place I’ve visited countless times is Rustic.  Yes, it is rustic by description, but that’s also the name of the tiny community, Rustic, Colorado.  

Rustic is between Fort Collins and Walden on the beautiful North Park-Cache la Poudre Scenic Byway, Highway 14.  It sits at just over 7000 feet above sea level.  Even in the middle of summer, the air feels cool here.  You can hear the river roaring from really everywhere in this canyon. Really good fly fishing just about anywhere along this river.  Rainbow, cut throat, brown trout.  Yeah, some great fly fishing here in this deep canyon.

This place is out there.  Very remote.  The only gas stop for several miles.  And most importantly to me, is the Glen Echo Cafe where they serve one amazing breakfast!  

So from here in Loveland, Colorado, it’s about 45 miles.  An hour and 15 minutes according to Google Maps.  With the right music on your mind and a smile on your face, you can make it here on your bike in about one hour flat.  Now I’m not suggesting going fast because depending on if it’s recently rained or if over eager tourest drives off the road with their camper, there can be rocks, but big and small anywhere on these often blind curves.  So yeah, like your mother always says, have fun but be careful!  

Back to the Glen Echo Cafe.  Yeah, this little place serves a really good, hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner too for that matter, with a really nice wait staff.   The folks that work at Glen Echo either have quite a long commute from Fort Collins to the east or Walden from the west, or they live in a cabin nearby.  Glen Echo also has cabins for rent and a few campsites.  

Anyway, one summer day, I rode out here for lunch with one of my riding buddies.  The very friendly lady, maybe 40, waited on our table. I could hear her southern accent.  Although I’ve lived in Colorado for many years now, I grew up in Texas.  

I asked her where she was from.  She named the town which I knew of very well.  Maybe I was too nosey, but by impulse I asked her what brought all the way out here from Texas.  She paused for a moment.  That’s when I realized that I had asked a question that was probably too personal.  Ug…   She went on to tell my friend and I that just a months before, in Texas, she had found herself with nothing but her dog and a van to live in.  Bad things had happened.    

She had lost most everything.  So, just like me, she had dreamed of living in Colorado.  Now was a good time for making a big change.  So, somehow she found Rustic and the Glen Echo Cafe from a Colorado help wanted add.  She applied and the good folks there made arrangements for her to live, with her dog, in one of their rental cabins.

This, was a very nice lady.  Genuinely nice.  She trusted two strange men with her life story.  Yep, we left quite a good tip.

Others come out to these mountains around Rustic.  Many on motorcycles.  On another visit, a solo ride up the canyon to that same cafe, I parked the bike right next to an old Honda Goldwing.  Maybe a 2003 model.   I walked up to grab a table outside.  Sitting there alone in his riding gear was clearly the owner of that Goldwing.  I said hello and sat at the table next to his.  And if you’ve listened to any of my other episodes, you know what happened next.  Of course, I struck up a conversation.  

Let’s call him Jerry.  Jerry told me that, sadly, after his wife passed away, way too early as he described, and after he retired shortly thereafter, he started riding that Goldwing.  Riding and riding.  He told me that he also pulls a small trailer which was at his campsite just up the road a few miles.  When my food came he asked me to move on over and join him at his table. That’s what motorcycle riders do. 

Jerry told me about how he has traveled the United States for a few years now, hardly ever returning home.  Instead, he would go to visit a network of friends and family scattered around the US.  Oftentimes though, he would just do this.  Go to a remote area, have a nice meal.  Grab a show where he could and camp out.  

He said that was his first time in this area.  Being the part time tour guide extravert, which by default makes me a social butterfly, I pretty much immediately peppered him with recommendations on what to see in Colorado.  I asked him how far up to the west on Highway 14 he had already traveled.  He said only just beyond right here to his campsite.

I said “There is a place that I really need to show you”.  Not “want’ to show you.  “Need” to show you.  There’s a difference, you’ll find out.  Ha ha.  So after we finished up our meal, I followed Jerry to his campsite.  Just a few minutes west.  Yep there was his trailer.  A nice size one for a motorcycle.  A medium size tent set up.  Cooking gear.  Pretty much all that you may need for a long motorcycle trip.  Then, he followed me for the next 10 miles or so up to Cameron Pass at 10,000 feet.  Too many people reach Cameron Pass and think to themselves, “well this is nice”.  What so many people don’t know is you must continue over the pass for about 2 miles.  Because it’s there, you’ll see what I think is one of the most beautiful views along any road in Colorado.  

Those snow capped mountain peaks just off the road are called the Crags by the locals, but the official name is Nokhu Crags.  The name comes from the Arapahoe Indians and the name means "Eagles Nest".  It’s just breathtaking. It’s this outcropping of craggy spires in what’s called the Never Summer Mountain Range here in northern Colorado. Not too many miles to the south of this spot is the Northern boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park.  That’s where I lead tours with Green Jeep Tours out of Estes Park.   There is a small turnout on the side of the road.  It’s such an amazing place for a picture with your motorcycle.  

When Jerry and I got off our bikes, well, yeah, he was breathless.  He asked me to take a picture of him and his bike with the snow covered Crags right behind him.  I took a picture of him with my camera too.  

Both Jerry and the waitress, both of whom I met at the Glen Echo Cafe, had at least two things in common.  One commonality was loss, but another was hope.  It’s a very courageous person who possesses both of those.  Something drew them to the mountains of Colorado.  Also, both were willing to be open to a personal conversation with someone that had just met.  To share a little bit about themselves with a total stranger.  I think that.  No I’m sure that, by riding up on a motorcycle, we make ourselves appear more open for a conversation.  I have experienced that over and over.

Back to my first words on this episode.  Yep, remember.  Two people on motorcycles, roaring down a steep canyon road that tees into Highway 14, just feet from the Glen Echo Cafe where I was sitting at a table on the porch.  Remember, these two were fast!  Really pro riders on matching KTM 500 enduros.  

They pulled off their helmets.  Shock, then pure joy rushed over me when I saw their faces.  These two men had to be in the mid 70s, if not older.  Maybe pushing 80!  Both of them!  One bold, the other with his long gray hair in a ponytail.  How cool is that!

My friends, that’s how I hope to grow old.  If I’m blessed with good health into my retirement years and beyond, I want to grow old screaming down a dirt canyon road on my fast motorcycle with my equally crazy friends.  Now that’s joy.  That’s a love for life.  That’s a smile that may never fade.  And my friends, that’s my hope for you too today.

Thank you so much for listening.  I wish you peace.  I wish you love.

Music by Brett Wilson and Geoff Harvey