Small Unit Tactics
The compromise between a big group of riders with differing agendas (and lots of smoke, photo, and bathroom breaks), and the pure solitude of a solo ride, is a small group ride. After going through Special Forces (motorcycle) training, I met a few of our elite soldiers that were still spoiling for a ride after a week of training. Not surprising, as a) nobody was forcing them to ride a bike, and in fact, it’s made more dificult by mandatory training and b) with a hatful of new skills to try out, who wouldn’t want to go tear it up a little.
I met up with Wes Drake, who was eager to show me some road he’d discovered with his family the previous winter while (unfortunately) riding in the family truck. The Wet Mountains are a small sub-range of the Rockies south of Cañon City. After meeting up with Drake at his homestead on CO-115, we continued south on CO-67 through rolling pastureland, climbing through the foothills of the Wets. Once linking up with CO-96, the climb starts for real. But unlike some mountain passes with huge drops and blind corners, 96 (while steep) has good sightlines and not too many scary drop-offs.
Turning south on CO-165, the Greenhorn Highway, the views and twisting road continued, until we stopped for a break at Bishop Castle. Unlike so many other privately-built monuments, this one was not encouraged by state and local authorities. We’re not sure of the reasoning, but Jim Bishop has had nothing but trouble with the authorities since starting the project in the late 60s. We’re not sure if it will ever be completed (Jim’s kids might not have his fortitude when it comes with dealing with The Man), but the 160-foot structure is an impressive monument to the ingenuity of its creator. The rock arches reminds me of Antoni Gaudi’s work in Spain, but for those of you who aren’t architecture geeks, suffice to say, it’s gorgeous and fun.
Almost all parts of the castle are accessible. The spiral staircases are cramped and twisted and the exterior wrought iron walkways are panic inducing, as are the views from the high towers. Perhaps the government objections are safety-related, as there are quite a few things that seem not all that stable, or the bell mounted in the middle of the spiral staircase to the tallest tower. But all in all, a very fun an unique attraction that is absolutely free. Local bikers apparently donate quite a bit to Bishop’s cause, which makes sense, with our predilection for good roads, fun destinations, and sticking it to The Man.
I spied Bishop himself working on an outbuilding of the castle that seemed to connect to a new underground section. Just like the rest of the castle, it seems ambitious beyond reason, but every bit as cool.
Continuing down 165, we stopped in at Lake Isabel for a bite at the diner there. Exploring a little, we continued down the road the resort is on, only to find that it simply circles the lake, but is a nice piece of tarmac nevertheless. Looking at our watches, we realized we didn’t have too much time for making a big loop out of the ride (I had a plane to catch), like so often this trip, it was time to double back. But when the roads are like this, in a state like this one, I can’t say I ever cared. B
Puget Sound Safety