In the summer of 1973, four NASA engineers working at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and a friend from Tampa loaded up their dirt bikes and headed for Colorado for 2 weeks of trail riding in the Rocky Mountains. Total driving time to Colorado was 37 hours and 2015 miles from Titusville, FL. On the trip were Gary Allgire (1973 Penton 175), Ed Timmons (1972 Yamaha 175), Bill Beeker (1971 Yamaha 125), Bill Williams (1972 Yamaha 250-MX), and John Lallemand (1972 Yamaha 360). John was to be the group trail leader since he had been to Colorado several times before and had maps and knew where to ride. None of us had ever met John before this trip. His name was given to us and we gave him a call to see if he wanted to go. This is a diary of that trip.
June 22 -- Left Titusville at about 8:30 PM. The plan was to leave at 3:00 PM, however John was late coming from Tampa and took a long time to pack. All the bikes were rejetted per John's instructions (3 main jets sizes smaller and lowered the main needle one notch). We used Gary's 1970 Dodge Van and a borrowed car trailer to haul the bikes. Gary had made a bed behind the second passenger seat. The plan was to drive straight through to Colorado. One of us would drive for 2 hours, then he would go to bed while the front passenger moved over to the drivers seat. The passenger in the back seat would move to the front passenger seat and whoever was in the bed then moved to the rear passenger seat. This would be the rotation cycle for the trip with each person driving only 2 hours in 8 hours. Bill Beeker did not drive out with the rest of the crew. He was to fly into Colorado Springs the night before we arrived in Colorado Springs. Bill Williams was already in Clinton, KY, and would be picked up there. Gary's wife and two kids were to ride with us to St. Louis, MO, and then stay with her parents until we came back through St. Louis.
June 23 -- The group didn't arrive in Clinton, KY until 2:30 PM (4 hours late). We then went to Cairo, IL, but from there had a hard time to Cape Girardeau, MO because the Mississippi was flooding and water was over the roads. Had a good supper at Gary's folks' home in St. Louis. We drove all night to Colorado. Bill Williams was the only smoker in the group and the rest of the group would not let him smoke in the van. He was only allowed to smoke when we stopped for gas. Bill would sometimes forget to start smoking as soon as we stopped and would only get to smoke half a cig. This would make him mad, as the rest of the group would not wait on him. The secret plan was to try and get Bill to stop smoking altogether, which by the way, didn't work. We encountered tremendous head winds driving west across Kansas. Fully loaded we could only maintain a 55 M.P.H. instead of the 65 to 75 M.P.H. elsewhere.
June 24 -- We arrived in Colorado Springs and found the hotel where Beeker was staying, then headed west with the only stop to pick up fishing licenses and bait. Beeker had already scouted out food while staying in the motel. We arrived at Cottonwood Lake, west of Buena Vista, CO, in the San Isabel National Forest about 6:00 PM. The mountains were beautiful. We had a flat on the trailer just as we pulled into the campsite. Saw mountain goats on the hill above the campsite.
June 25 -- We were up at 6:00 AM. The sun rises over the mountains at 7:00. Had sausage and eggs for breakfast. Unloaded the bikes and left camp at 10:00 for Popular Gulch Trail. By 11:30 we had gone only 4 miles. The trail was a hiking trail with many switch backs...REALLY rugged!! Got into snow and were unable to make it to St. Elmo. The carb. jetting for the bikes seemed to be spot on.
Back at camp we rested, then went up a beautiful logging road to an old mine. For supper we had steak and baked potato.
NOTE: It gets quite cold at night after the sun goes down.
June 26 -- For breakfast we had pancakes and bacon, then packed up and left Cottonwood Lake. Hauled one bike and rode the others over the dirt road and Cottonwood Pass (Continental Divide), elevation 12,126 ft. to Dinner Station, 34 miles NE of Gunnison. Ed Timmons drove the van. At the top of the pass the state road workers had cut an opening through 12 feet deep snow so that the road could be used. We found out that this year's snowfall was so great that many of the passes would not be open this year. We had our first "engine off" down hill race. Beeker was unbeatable at this game. Must have been his extra weight. Got to the Dinner Station CG at Taylor Reservoir at 12:00 PM and set up camp. On the way in to Dinner Station, we passed a marker stating that this spot had reached the lowest temperature ever recorded in Colorado, 60 °F below zero. Taylor Park was always so cold that trees did not grow in the valley.
After setting up camp we rode up the mountain to the "Star Mine", Cement Creek, and Italian Creek. Beautiful snowy, rocky roads limited to 4-wheel drive vehicles. The old coot who was mining Star Mine had died a couple years earlier. However, they had left his place untouched since he died. He must have died while eating breakfast, because when we looked in the windows we could see his cereal and bowls still on the table. Messed around the mine for a while. Got inside the main building that was over the mineshaft. A very impressive site to see. Went to the "Nugget Cafe" at the Taylor Reservoir Tradin' Post for dinner and a bath. For supper, had hamburger, country fried potatoes, and baked beans. They have the best Strawberry/Peach pie ever made. Bought a newspaper only to discover that it was three days old. Owner told us that it took 3 days for the Denver paper to get to Taylor Lake. Our campsite was beautiful with pine trees and rocks all around and the Taylor River just right there at the edge of our camp site. Pitched tents beside the river.
June 27 -- Up at 6:00 AM for a steak and eggs breakfast. Temperature about 36-40 °F. Rode to Tincup and up to Mirror Lake, one of the most beautiful scenes on our trip. Tried to get up to Tincup Pass, but couldn't due to snow. Rode on up to Cumberland Pass (elevation 12,056), then down to Pitkin, CO. Another great "engine off" race. Coasted almost 45 miles with engines off. Top speed was a scary 47 mph on gravel roads with lots of hairpin turns. Impossible to make a hairpin turn at speed with no engine power to kick the back end around. Beeker again won this race. Had lunch in Pitkin at a small restaurant. We all wanted trout for lunch, and the owners went outside to a small pond in front of the restaurant and caught 5 trout for us to eat. Then tried to get up Hancock Pass, but it was snowed out. Also tried to get to Alpine Tunnel, but an avalanche stopped us. Total mileage today: 104.
John and Gary went on up Hancock Pass and rode to within "spittin' distance" of the top, but a snow bank stopped them. Walked the rest of the way. Spent 2 hours messin' around. On the way back down, the road was open to the Alpine Tunnel, so they stopped in to say "Hi" to the tunnel.
June 28 -- Up at 6:20 AM. Pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Everyone fished all morning, and then we had trout for dinner. On the bikes in the afternoon we tried to get over Taylor Pass, but the road was literally washed out. It had turned into a creek. Gary fell over in the creek! We then broke into two groups with Bill B. and Ed going by to see the two old retired telephone operators in a cabin and Bill W., John and Gary going back to camp. John had bike problems. Gary went fishing again. Bill B. and Ed had some great stories about the two telephone operators. Ed said that the operators had wrinkles on top of wrinkles they were so old. No electricity or water in their cabin. The way they got water was that they had run a copper pipe out of the cabin up to a stream. Hot water was made by how many times the copper tube was wrapped around a pot belly stove. Went to the Nugget Cafe for supper. A storm came up and it rained about 1/2 inch. Took a bath and washed clothes. John couldn't fix the troubles with his Yamaha and would need to go to a shop for repairs. Looked at maps for the closest dealer and then decided that we would stop in Gunnison on the way to Lake City.
June 29 -- Packed the truck and trailer early today and left for Lake City. Stopped at the Nugget Cafe and had steak and eggs for breakfast ($1.50). Headed towards Gunnison with Gary and John driving the van while the rest of us rode bikes. Had to stop when a rancher came around the bend driving about 100 head of cattle on the road. Rancher was real nice and waived to us as he and his cattle went by. Seems ranchers don't have a problem with dirt bikes in this area. Next we stopped in Gunnison to get Johns bike fixed. Not much of a dealer, but he was able to fix the bike. Arrived in Lake City at the Golconda Resort Campground on Lake San Cristobal about 11:30 AM. Rode bikes up to Carson Ghost Town. It's up on top of a mountain and can only be accessed by about 200 yards of rocks at about 30 ° incline due to the creek jumping it's banks during the spring thaw and running down the road. Had beef stew and grilled cheese sandwiches for supper. John, Bill B., and Gary then rode on from Carson to Sherman townsite. It was founded in 1875, but is now a ghost town. Sign didn't say when the town was vacated. Town was in bad shape. No pictures. On the way back, Beeker fell and busted his a--. He is doing OK and will be riding again tomorrow.
June 30 -- Rode up Cinnamon Pass on Engineer Mountain today. Engineer Pass was closed due to snow, so we went to Mineral Point, Animas Forks (saw the famous Walsh House whose owner once owned the Hope Diamond), Ouray (Switzerland of America), Silverton, and back to Animas Forks and over Cinnamon Pass again to the campgrounds. Then went to "The Broad Axe" for supper and the lounge for drinks. Stayed until 1:30 AM. They had a good quartet. An old drunk came in and started talkin' to Bill Beeker. For some reason the old drunk thought Bill looked like an Indian. When Bill told him he was a Section Chief at NASA, the drunk thought he was a "Cherokee Chief".
July 1 -- Took a break from riding today and went fishing (Williams, Timmons, and Lallemond). We caught 18 rainbow trout and had them for dinner that night. Spent the rest of the day in Lake City shopping. Allgire went riding while the rest of us shopped. Rode up the side of a large hill that overlooked the campgrounds. Hard trail. Played poker after dinner until 11:00 PM.
July 2 -- Pancakes for breakfast. Today was Beeker's last day. He rode with the group up Engineer Pass, but couldn't get on over. Stopped at Rose's Cabin on the way down. All of us ate lunch in Lake City. Lake City needs a good eatin' place. There is some neat old shops to buy gifts. The drug store has a bunch of old bottles and cans for sale. A beat-up, rusted Prince Albert tobacco can goes for $2.00. Fished again only this time at Deer Creek Lake up Slumgullion Pass and stopped for a view of Slumgullion Slide. Between the five of us, we only caught 3 trout, however, the other people fishing around the lake were really killing the trout. When we decided to call it quits, some guy gave us all of his 12 trout so that he could catch more. Seems that there is a limit of trout you can catch and he was close to that limit. Fish for dinner.
July 3 -- Timmons took Beeker to Gunnison this morning to catch a bus to Colorado Springs. Gary and John met some other bike riders at the campground and rode with them up to Crystal Lake outside of Lake City. Trail up was very difficult and dangerous. Crystal Lake was very beautiful and it looked like only backpackers could get there. Williams washed clothes and went shopping in Lake City.
July 4 -- Spent the day in Lake City today. Gary also. John and Timmons rode to Telluride early today and will spend the night. The parade in Lake City started at 11:00 AM. Wasn't much. Beeker's drunk friend was in it playing the piano. Then had games and booths in the Community Center. Had sack races, tug-of-war between Lake City citizens and imported Texans (Lake City has a year 'round population of only 500 people, but in the summer it's population goes up to 5000 with all the Texans), egg-throwing contest, milk drinking from a baby bottle contest, and others. They also had Chuck-a-Luck and Black Jack tables run by Hinsdale County Police. Gary lost a few bucks. Fireworks began at 9:00 PM. Everyone was in the Town Square and it almost became a riot when the kids started throwing fireworks at everybody. Williams rode up to Windy Point in afternoon to take pictures.
July 5 -- John and Timmons didn't get back from Telluride until 4:00 PM, so Gary and Williams rode up to Mountain 71. From Mountain 71 there is a beautiful view of the entire Lake City and San Cristobal Lake with the whole mountain range around the lake in the background. There is a huge meadow on top with daisies and other flowers growing all around. Williams went to a Bar-B-Q held by the campground and had ribs for dinner and a slideshow. The others had Spam sandwiches. Loaded up the trailer for the trip back home. And we bought lots of Coors Beer because they didn't sell it in Florida. Left for home at 8:00 PM, by way of Creede and Pueblo, CO.
July 6 -- Arrived in St. Louis at Gary's house at 10:30 PM. The plan was to stop long enough to pick up Gary's wife and kids, but we were all too tired to drive on, so we all spent the night there.
July 7 -- Left St. Louis at 10:30 AM, but had to stop and change the fuel filter on the van and a tire on the trailer. Arrived in Clinton, KY at 5:30 PM. Bill Williams got off there.
July 8 -- The group arrived back in Titusville at about 1:00 PM.
See Where Are They Now? for the current whereabouts of all the guys.