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Cartersville, Ga to Durango, Co

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Ride Stats:

  • Distance: 3669 miles / 5904.7 km
  • Ride Time: Longer than a week
  • Approximate Fuel Costs: $278.84
  • States Visited: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee
Submitted by:
JTO

This past summer, my wife Vicki and I, along with our dear friends Chris and Rose, decided to take a trip west on our motorcycles. Chris has an '04 Harley Ultra Classic, and i have an '01 Honda Goldwing. Chris had mentioned a trip out west to durango, Colorado a couple of years earlier, and we had been talking about it ever since and finally decided to pull the trigger and go, leaving June 24th and planning to be back July 4th or 5th.We started traveling together a couple of years ago and usually take 2 or 3 short trips a year, usually to the Smokey Mountains, although we die take a longer trip out to Branson, Missouri. This trip would obviously be different, as we would travel around 4000 miles and do it in 11 or 12 days. We would have to average almost 400 miles a day, which meant 8-9 hours a day on the bikes. Our goal was to avoid interstate highways so we could enjoy the trip more, and to take a somewhat circular route where we wouldn't have to travel the same roads on our return as we did on the way out to our destination.We had decided on Durango as our destination simply because we had never been there and thought we could get there and back in the time we had allotted. We also figured the scenery would be pretty and the temperatures relatively mild for summer. Vicki, who is a school teacher, had just ended the school year in Georgia, and I took a half day off from work on the 24th so we could get a jump on starting the trip. We traveled over near Albertville, Alabama to meet Chris and Rose at their house.It was cloudy and threatening rain as we got to Chris and Rose's house, and we debated waiting till the next morning (Saturday) to get started. However, we knew we needed to make as many miles as possible now, aiming to get to the Mississippi line if at all possible before dark, so we watched the weather channel and the radar picture for a few minutes. After looking over the available info and talking it through, we decided to go ahead and leave now, thinking we could avoid the worst of the weather.We got as far as Cullman, Alabama and ran into what can best be described as a monsoon. High winds, lightning, and heavy downpours seemed to be everywhere around us, and we had nowhere to safely pull off and wait it out, so we put on the Frogg Toggs and pressed on. It was pretty unpleasant, especially with Vicki screaming in my ear every few minutes that 'we're gonna die', but thanks to our rain gear and the good folks at a convenience store in Natural Bridge, Alabama (where we were finally able to stop and let the worst of the storm go by) we made it safely and surprisingly dry to the Hampton Inn in Winfield, Alabama, a few miles shy of the Mississippi line.We passed a pleasant night, and started out around 8:00 am Saturday morning on highway 78 toward Mississippi. After crossing the state line, we got on highway 178 and passed through Tupelo, picking up highway 278 and followed it to Clarksdale. From there we took highway 49 north and crossed the Mississippi river at Helena, Arkansas. The river was receding from flood stage but you could easily see the high water marks on the fields surrounding the river. So far, the scenery had been typical south, rolling hills and lots of pines thickets interspersed with hardwoods, and in a primarily rural setting. However, after crossing the river we were definitely in the delta, with corn and rice fields becoming the main sights along the road.We headed south on highway 79 toward Pine Bluff. While the morning had started out as a pleasant and mild June morning, the temperature was beginning to rise to an uncomfortable level, the wind picked up out of the south, and there were no trees along the road to give any respite from the sun. Basically it was hot as blazes. We stopped for lunch at a little hole in the wall in Clarendon, and had a good lunch and enjoyed the a/c for a little while, then hit the road again. By the time we got to Pine Bluff the temperature was over 100 degrees and we all felt like we were going to melt. My goldwing, being water cooled, didn't really add much to the heat level while riding, but Chris's Harley was about to cook Rose alive. We stopped in Pine Bluff to take on as much water as we could and to try to find a little shade to cool off. After about 30 minutes or so, we got back on the bikes and headed toward Hot Springs on highway 270, planning to stay there for the night. Vicki, who doesn't really like to drink water (prefers diet coke) and isn't used to being out in the heat, got too hot and passed out around Poyen, Arkansas. I could feel her bobbing around behind me and finally roused her enough for her to tell me she had faintd and felt like she was going to again, so we found a little store and stopped and helped her in to try to cool her off. We spent a good hour there pouring water in her, on her, and applying wet and cool paper towels to her neck and wrists to try and get her cooled off. She finally felt better and seemed to be hydrated, so we packed along some more bottles of water and headed west once more. The temperature was down a couple of degrees from the high of 103, but still plenty hot. We were getting into some hills and trees though which helped block some of the sun, and as the afternoon was getting later, the angle of the sun allowed more of the trees to block it, which helped make it feel cooler. We almost stopped in Malvern for the night, but we decided to go on to Hot Springs.Had we known in advance that there was a biker convention taking place in Hot Springs that weekend, we would have stayed in Malvern, but we were unaware of it until we got to town. We couldn't find a hotel room anywhere, so we grabbed some Mexican food (after a brief wait in line) and tried to figure out what we should do. It was obvious we would have to get out of town to find any vacancies at a hotel, so we made what haste we could and made tracks west in search of a hotel room. The good news about the biker convention is that even though we were hot, nasty, smelly, and looked pretty scary, we didn't really stand out from the majority of people in town (not much of a positive when you are desperate for somewhere to clean up, cool off, and sleep for a while, but you have to look on the bright side). We had to go all the way to Mount Ida to find a place to stay for the night. It was almost dark when we stumbled upon a couple of rooms at an old 1950's era resort on Lake Quachita. It was old but clean and reasonable as well as quiet. There were a lot of families there for the weekend, so we were lucky to find a vacancy. In fact, I think we got 2 of the last 3 rooms available. Man, it was good to get somewhere cool and clean up and get some rest.Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the resort's restaurant, and headed Toward Fort Smith, hoping to get there in time for Sunday morning worship services. From Mount Ida to Ft. Smith is a beautiful drive. As you leave the winding roads through the Quachita National Forest you come to a pretty valley with horse and cattle farms. We arrived in Ft, Smith and found the congregation where we intended to worship just in time. After services we grabbed a quick lunch at a local sandwich shop, and then headed into Oklahoma hoping to get to Stillwater in time for evening worship services.As soon as we crossed the state line into Oklahoma on highway 64, the road deteriorated severely. Road conditions improved dramatically when we got on the Muscogee turnpike. This was one of the few times on our trip when we traveled on a limited access highway, and we were able to make good time. The wind was out of the south so was mostly at our backs and made the ride easier and more pleasant. The heat was still a factor (over 102 degrees) but we had learned our lesson and made sure we stayed hydrated. Between Muscogee and Tulsa we stopped at a rest area and cooled off a bit and replenished our water. After about a half an hour we headed on to Tulsa and picked up highway 51 on the west side of town. At this time we were traveling due west, the wind was steady out of the south at 25 mph with gusts up to 35 mph, it was hot, and the road was like a washboard. At the risk of offending the good people of Oklahoma, this made me wonder if Oklahome just existed to hold the rest of the country together. It was miserable fighting the wind and the road in the heat. Goldwings and Harleys must be put together pretty well to stand up to the pounding we took on this road. This was absolutely the worst part of the trip. Vicki and Rose were making mutinous noises and Chris and I were dreaming of cooler places and smoother roads.We made it to Stillwater in time for Worship services, met some very good people, and enjoyed a steak at a local steakhouse. We spent the night at another Hampton, feeling like we had earned the right to be pampered a bit. After talking with the locals and the innkeeper, we learned the wind never stops blowing and the heat wave was going to continue and get worse as we headed west. We decided Wisconsin might be a better destination for us, at least it should be cooler, so we decided to head north the next morning instead of continuing west to Colorado. Monday morning started out hot, but as we traveled north up highway 177 the temperature began to moderate. It was at least 15 degrees cooler in Kansas, and the wind didn't seem as strong. We stopped for lunch in downtown Wichita, and after a roundtable discussion decided to chance the heat and wind and head toward Colorado again.We traveled west on highway 400 across the plains, making it to Dodge City for the night. We stayed at the 'famous' Dodge House hotel. I don't really recommend at. It's old and sort of shabby and, in my opinion, overpriced. On the bright side, the food at the restaurant was pretty good. We also visited the Boot Hill historic area, and were a little disappointed. It just wasn't what I was expecting.Tuesday morning, June 28th, we had a pleasant drive on highway 400 across southwestern Kansas and into Colorado. The roads in Kansas were by the far the best we traveled, and the scenery was beautiful. You would ride along smelling the Jasmine growing in the fields along the road, which was very pleasant until they were overpowered by the cattle in the feedlots. You certainly experience more of the sights and smells when riding on a bike as opposed to an automobile. We stopped for lunch in La Junta, Colorado, and then took highway 10 to Walsenburg. Highway 10 was very interesting but desolate terrain. The road was straight and 63 miles of nothing but dusty prarie on either side of the road, with the faint outline of the mountains in the western distance.We arrived in Walsenburg and spent about an hour looking around town in some antique shops and visiting a small ice cream parlor. We then headed west on highway 160 up into the mountains toward Durango.Things cooled down substantially as we gained elevation, and we crossed the continental divide at Wolf Creek Pass in late afternoon. We had put on Jackets by this time as the elevation was 10,850 feet above sea level and getting quite cool as the sun dropped on the horizon. It's amazing how quick you can go from hot dusty flat plains to the cool forested mountains and the scenery was magnificent. It was getting pretty late, so we hurried on to Pagosa Springs so we could get there before dark and find someplace to spend the night. We stayed at a little roadside inn, nothing fancy but cheap and reasonably comfortable. We walked up the road a piece to a local restaurant for supper, walked back to the room, and called it a night.Wednesday morning, June 29, started out cool and pretty. we ate a quick continental breakfast at the hotel and startd out to Durango. It's a pretty drive from Pagosa Springs to Durango and only takes a little over an hour to make the trip. We made it to Durango and pulled into the Harley shop to look around. Chris considered trading his Ultra Classic for a new one, but no one seemed that interested in talking to him about the new bikes, much less working up a trade. The ladies picked up a few things to help with their hair(always an issue except for me-I don't have any), and the lady at the sales counter told us to try and get a room at the historic Strater Hotel downtown. She said that if we mentioned she had recommended the Hotel they would give us a discount. So, we eased on down to the Strater and booked a couple of rooms for 2 nights at a discounted price. We grabbed a bite of lunch and made reservations to ride the Durango to Silverton train for Thursday, giving us a day off the bikes to rest. We then headed out to 4 corners. I would have liked to have visited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, but we just didn't have time. About 15 miles south of Cortez we encountered a vicious storm with 60 mph wind gusts, rain, and lightning. I could see it coming across the landscape, but we had nowhere to go to get away from it. When it hit, I had to fight the bike to keep us on the road. We were riding at a severe angle and at times I thought the footpegs would ground out. The shoulder of the road was narrow and gravel, and I didn't want to try to pull off onto gravel under these conditions. I could see daylight a little further up the road, so I kept heading toward it, hoping to run out of the storm. Vicki was screaming something, but i could barely hear her with the wind and rain whipping around so hard. I was as scared as I've ever been in 40 years of riding motorcycles. We made it to the other side of the storm and found a place to pull off, catch our breath, and clean out our britches. We regrouped and made it out to 4 corners and spent some time looking around and buying some trinkets from the stall set up by the Navajo and Ute Indians.We headed back to Durango in time to attend Wednesday evening worship services and met some nice people who were members of the congregation there. We stopped and ate pizza at a small joint on Main Street, and then called it a day.The Strater Hotel is a neat old hotel, and our stay was comfortable, quiet, and quite nice. We awoke Thursday morning refreshed, ate a big breakfast at the hotel, then walked down to the train station for our 8:00 a.m. departure to Silverado on the train.I initially thought the price for the train trip was a little high, but in retrospect it was well worth the cost. The scenery was beautiful, the trip pleasant, and thoroughly enjoyable. We reached Silverton just before noon, and had time to enjoy lunch at one of the restaurants in Silverton. We then took the train back to Durango. We had a nice supper at a Mexican Restaurant close to the train station. After visiting a few of the shops and buying some trinkets for the grandkids we returned to the hotel, claimed our laundry (which we sent out that morning) and settled in for the night. It was a very pleasant and relaxing day.Friday morning, July 1st, we ate another great breakfast at the Strater, loaded up, checked out, and headed up the Million Dollar Hiway (hiway 550) toward Silverton. We had to bundle up pretty good as the temperature was in the 40's as we headed up into the San Juans. We got to Silverton mid-morning and parked on Main Street so we could examine some of the shops we didn't have time to see the day before. We met a couple of enterprising young men, 8-10 years old, who were selling rocks to tourists. They were interesting fellows and we enjoyed talking with them. They were pretty good salesmen too, as we bought a few rocks from them. We had lunch at another of the local restaurants, then climbed back onto the bikes and headed up the road to Ouray and then Montrose.Some of the folks we met Wednesday night in Dorango had warned us that the trip up the Million Dollar Highway could be a litle intimidating. We found the road between Durango and Silverton to be quite good. It's wide with gentle, sweeping turns and great views. Vicki even commented that we had been on much worse roads in the North Georgia mountains. However, the road from Silverton to Ouray is another story. It must have been this portion of the road our friends in Durango were talking about. The road has tighter turns, no shoulder, and one side has a towering rock wall and the other side a drop off (with no guardrail to give you that false sense of security). I think Vicki rode most of the way with her eyes closed. It made me a little tense too. Therefore, we were quite relieved when we made it to Ouray. We stopped and walked around town a bit and then headed back north to Montrose.When we reached Montrose we picked up highway 50. Once again, it was a beautiful drive. The river and lake we rode beside was very pretty and the ride was very pleasant. We crossed the continental divide again at Monarch Pass, 11312 feet above sea level, and made it to Salida for the night. We stayed at the Silver Ridge Lodge, a little locally owned hotel. It was a simple but attractive place and was perhaps the cleanest and friendliest hotel at which I've ever stayed. It was reasonably priced and the continental breakfast was good, and everything was as neat as a pin. I highly recommend it if you are in the area.Saturday morning, we left Salida and followed highway 50 back to Dodge City where we spent the night at the Comfort Inn. There was a big stock car race in the area that weekend and all the hotels were full. We were lucky to find anything in town with a vacancy. As a matter of fact, the last two rooms vacant had problems with them, such as broken locks, so we were kind of nervous about staying there, but beggars can't be choosers, and we made do.We left early Sunday morning, and rode hard to El Dorado, Kansas to make it for Worship Services. We made it just in time and enjoyed worshipping and visiting the good members of the congregation there. We had lunch at a local Cafeteria and headed east. We rolled through Joplin, Missouri late Sunday afternoon and saw firsthand the devastation from the tornado that came through earlier in the year. Words cannot describe adequately how bad it was. It was obvious that everyone was pitching in and working hard to cleanup and get things back on track. I admire their tenaciousness and wish we could have stayed a few days to have helped, but we had to get back to work so we had to push on.A thunderstorm was coming through the area, and we tried to go south to get around it, and made it as far as Monett before we decided to stop for the night. We found a Super 8 and had no sooner parked our bikes under the portico than the thunderstorm hit us. We ordered pizza delivered to the room and hunkered down for the night.Monday morning, July 4th, we woke up to cloudy skies, but no rain, so we got back on the road. We took highway 60 out of Springfield to Poplar Bluff, ate lunch, and continued down highway 53 to Kennett, then crossed the Mississippi on I-155 to Dyersburg, Tn. and headed south down highway 412 to Jackson, where we spent the night and ate a great southern supper at The Old Country Store. The food and atmosphere were great.We got up early on Tuesday, ate breakfast at the hotel, and headed for home. We stopped for lunch at Jack's in Snead, Al. where we said our goodbye's to Chris and Rose and headed back home to Georgia.We arrived home tired but happy and thankful that we'd had the opportunity to make the trip and that it had gone safely and smoothly.I heartily recommend this trip to anyone looking for some great scenery and a great time. An additional week would have been nice to be able to spend more time at the towns and sites along the way, but we'll try to catch some of the things we missed on another trip. Maybe our next big trip will be to the Black Hills-We're already talking about it.Anyway, traveling by motorcycle lets you be part of the landscape much more than traveling by car. It's our favorite way to travel. We hoping we can make many more trips in the years to come.

This is a motorcycle ride in the states Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee. This motorcycle route has 8 scenery characteristics and other road conditions to help you plan your road trip. This motorcycle map was created by JTO in February. Click here to see other Motorcycle Roads by JTO

Rider Photos:

  • Motorcycle Ride Picture 1 for Cartersville, Ga to Durango, Co

Ride Scenery:

Historic SitesUrban/ResidentialLakesForestMountainsRuralRiverPlains

Best Time to Go

Spring, Summer, Fall

Road Characteristics:

Straight RoadSweeping Curves RoadTwisty RoadRolling HillsLight TrafficAverageAdequate Gas StationsAdequate

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