The Land of Enchantment – there’s much more to New Mexico than just UFO crashes and Balloon Festivals. New Mexico is home to some of the most amazing motorcycle roads out there and we were getting ready to get on one on our way to Silverton, Colorado! But first we needed to make a pit stop:
The Old Pink Schoolhouse – Tres Piedras, New Mexico
Leaving Red River behind for the final time, we headed west, past the Rio Grande Bridge on US 64 and made our first stop for the day – an old adobe schoolhouse in Tres Piedras. This structure was built in the early 1930’s and used as a school until 1969. Legend has it that the original color was supposed to be blue, but when the paint was opened, there was only one can of blue and the rest were pink – and as they say ‘the rest is history’. Though thoroughly faded from its glorious, in your face, passionate pink heyday sheen, the exterior color has toned down in the intervening years, however, the interior walls still retain their original, vibrant hues of orange and red painted by the previous owner.
After being wined and dined by our wonderful friends, it was time to hop onto the remote Highway 64 and leave the mesas behind. The road ascends into Carson National Forest and is blessed with big sweeping curves that beckon you onward. Tall, towering ponderosa pines line the route, with mountain views as the backdrop.
Several pull-offs become available as you approach Brazos Summit, which at 10,507 feet makes Highway 64 one of the highest mountain roads of New Mexico. Take the time to pull over and explore the grand views and photo ops available.
At the top, we parted ways with our friends who needed to return to their homes and lives and we motored onward. Towns blurred past as we chugged along - Tierra Amarilla, Chama, Pagosa Springs, and then finally DURANGO!…
And here lies the real reason for our excitement. At Durango we would start one of the best Colorado motorcycle rides - US 550 north to Silverton - that the state had to offer.
Highway 550 – Durango to Silverton
The ride from Durango to Silverton is a breathtaking, one of a kind thrill ride. The ascent is glorious, going first over Coal Bank Pass (10,660 feet) which offers views of Twilight Peak and then as the highway continues upwards to Molas Pass (10,899 feet).
At the top, stop at the overlook to admire the million dollar views in every direction of mountains, pristine, alpine meadows and Molas Lake where camping, fishing and hiking abound. We’ve been on some amazing routes, but this one makes it into the top ten on our list.
From the overlook, Silverton is a mere five miles away, but it’s a hair-raising five mile steep descent through more hair-pin curves and twists that have you holding your breath until the final turn into town.
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy designated the entire town of Silverton as a National Historic Landmark. And it’s easy to see that this is a town that wears its mining heritage proudly. Its name is a reflection to the large quantities of silver that was mined in the area. What began as a rough and tumble town of hardy miners has been turned into a rough and tumble vacationer’s paradise. This is not a refined and well-heeled destination for those seeking to be pampered and catered to. This is a remote mountain town where the off-road vehicles just about outnumber the residents.
The main thoroughfare, Greene Street, is a one-way-in, one-way-out street lined with rustic, old west false-front wooden buildings straight out of a movie set, old-time miner’s shotgun houses and colorful Victorian homes. The air is crisp and clear, and the atmosphere just about cries out that here is a place that has not yet been scrubbed clean of its vibrant, colorful, historic past.
During the 1800’s, Silverton flourished as a mining camp with 5,000 miners crowding its numerous saloons and vying for the affections of the dance-hall girls who provided entertainment of the nighttime variety. Sin and Silver were its two main commodities.
What’s there To Do?
In the summer the adventure possibilities are endless with hiking, mountain biking, jeep/ATV/UTV rentals to explore the Alpine Loop, backpacking, fly-fishing, camping and hunting. In addition, there are the following to look into:
- Old Hundred Gold Mine tour
- Mayflower Mill tour
- Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
- Soaring Tree Top Zipline
And since Silverton gets more than its fair share of snowfall, the activities continue in the winter with snowmobiling, sledding and cross-country skiing – along with skiing one of the steepest ski resorts in Colorado – Silverton Mountain.
A Place to Lay Your Head:
There are numerous historic hotels of varying rates and styles in town, so you’ll be sure to find something that caters to your preferences if you desire a more traditional mode of accommodations.
We stayed at the Silverton Lakes RV Resort and were blessed with a campsite right next to the Animas River. The sound of rushing water lulled us to sleep at night and mornings brought foraging deer wandering through our campsite. The staff was very friendly and accommodating and the facilities well cared for.
The Wild West theme is in abundance at one of Silverton’s best restaurants, Handlebars Food & Saloon. Step back into time to get a flavor of Silverton’s mining history while enjoying some of the best grub around. Or sample the sandwiches and burgers at the Shady Lady, home to the last brothel in Silverton.
With over 24 places to eat in Silverton, you’re sure to find something to fill your belly with.
Though it’s not easy to get to, Silverton offers a guaranteed adventure for those hardy enough to pursue it.
Hi! I want to share a solution I found to keeping cool on a bike.
Initially, I used a damp microfiber towel draped around my neck hanging down over my chest. I then realized a dramatic improvement. Now, I drape the damp towel entirely around my neck and re-wet it as needed and it’s evaporation in the wind cools down my entire body.
What I realized is that the blood flow past the towel to the head is about quarter of the entire blood flow and that works like a radiator causing the towel to cool the blood flowing to the rest of the body. It made a huge difference to me.
All the best, I watch every video. You are lovely people.