I left Grand Junction feeling rather the worst for wear. The local brewery charged only $3.00 for a pint of their own brewed beer. Between myself and Dave we managed to run up a tab of around $35.00. Unlike almost every other place that I had visited, I was not sorry at all to leave Grand Junction. Other then a few characters in the bar, the town held no interest at all. The hotel provided a list of entertainment available. The first two items on the list were a cinema and the pub. The third was the airport.
We passed through yet more spectacular mountain passes making our way to Silverton. It was a holiday weekend here in the States and literally hundreds of bikers on Harleys and the like were out on a rally, or just enjoying the mountains. Rather then sate my desire to cross America by motorcycle, this whole trip has only served to reinforce that. In fact every bike that we passed was like a little twisting knife. I’ve never felt more conflicted in happiness. Here I was passing through the landscape that I dream about but at that moment I would have given anything just to be able to swap and jump onto one of those bikes. Harleys back home are just lumbering beasts. Too heavy, too expensive and not enough performance. All show and no go. But out there on that mountain pass or the long roads through the forest the Harley made perfect sense. This was what it was created for and it was in its element.
We stopped at the most picturesque town. It labeled itself America’s Matterhorn. I was quite easy to see why. Sandwiched into the mountains and every building seeming to come from a 1930’s movie set. I popped into the most wonderfully bizarre shop. It sold everything from scorpions and spiders encased in resin, to indian carvings and wooden katanas. I walked away with a slingshot. The handle of which is a carved wooden deer. The head and antlers forming the ‘Y’ of the catapult. I must have walked past it ten times before I finally bought it. After all, when would I have the opportunity to pick up a find like this again?
The coach carried on through a landscape now completely changed by the hands of man. Instead of a tree covered rocky peak, the next mountain was open to the elements showing the mineral residue from a previous mining operation. Instead of grey and green, this mountain had a marble like texture of reds, and rusty browns. Quite beautiful in its own way, but also shocking in the scale that the landscape had been changed. The surrounding area was littered with the remnants of the mining operation. In some case the equipment had jut been left to rust where it had stood. It is easy to imagine that the operation was still continuing to this day.
Silverton is exactly how you imagine a wild west town to be. Unpaved roads, the saloon type architecture of a million cowboy films. Old bordellos and whore houses were now converted to family restaurants. Although one proprietor continued to dress as an old fashioned madam much to the delight of the traveling party. It seems the traditions of using a little cleavage to draw in the punters is effective as ever – whether the aim is to sell the pleasures of the flesh or a burger and fries. I made my way to a small diner and had a Buffalo Burger. For the first time I can say that I have tried a new exotic meat that does not taste like chicken. Now this just tasted like every other burger that I’ve had – only at twice the price.
The entire point of our journey to Silverton was to catch a train to Durango. Our transport for the day was to be an original 1920’s steam engine. Not a replica, but an original as the engineers were keen to stress. The route was a scenic one through the mountains, along cliff edges and following the route of the river. The train buffs in the party were like school children. As for myself I travelled with a huge smile on my face. There is something about steam trains that make for an exciting ride. The noise and the motion are unlike anything else. As is the reaction of anyone that sees one. We passed through small towns and people lined the tracks with cameras and video cameras. Everyone smiling and waving. Even when the route was parallel with roads, drivers and passengers would wave through the windows. Of course everyone was happy to wave back. The steam train has been a real highlight of this trip. Even at 3.5 hours I loved every minute of it. I’m by no means a train buff, but I can easily see the attraction of the steam engine.
We arrived in Durango with a bit of a shock. This was a fairly large sized town, complete with lots of shops and restaurants. I think we all expected to find the counterpart of Silverton. But this was a modern, but attractive town. More of a shock was what was lining the streets. Everywhere you looked were parked Harley’s. Every bar had a banner with some variation on ‘bikers welcome’. The whole town had a celebrationry atmosphere. One of a good time to be had. People wondered the streets looking at the bikes, and from the open doors of the public houses came rock music and the unmistakable sound of people having a good time.
I went to a chinese restaurant, ordering a duck & mushroom, with beef rice. They brought out the duck on a platter. I gulped as the plate was huge, and piled with a mountain of food that could easily have two people. The rice then followed, unbelievably this was an even larger dish then the duck. Both however tasted excellent and it was only the prospect of a walk back to the hotel with an overfull stomach that prevented me from eating more.
All in all, one of the best days of the journey so far.