Emig Ride 2014 Logo

Because we’re motorcycle-riding fanatics, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC sponsors several dual sport/adventure rides every year. This year, we decided to invite Jeff Emig on our ride. In fact, we called the ride after him – the Emig Ride (ER). In early August, we set out to find eight lucky winners that would accompany us and Jeff Emig on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure ride from the red-rock cliffs of Moab, Utah, to the beautiful San Juan Mountains surrounding Silverton, Colorado.

The Emig Ride Contest Winners with Jeff Emig
Contest Winners
Left to Right: Todd Campbell, John Perkins, Mike Holder, Harry Reynolds, Lynda Wallenfels, Jeff Emig, Ryan Groseclose, Paul Park and Ken Wilson

Day One

Starting out from the center of Moab, UT, we rode some asphalt east on State Route 128. The scenery was amazing as we rode alongside the Colorado River with the red cliff backdrop. The weather was perfect as we rode through Castle Valley, over the La Sal mountain range and down into Gateway, CO. We got our first bit of dirt action over the La Sal mountain pass as the road turned from pavement to dirt.

Asphalt Meets Pavement on the Emig Ride

After taking a lunch break and wolfing down some hoagies that we made before we left, we took off towards Telluride, CO. Riding through this upscale ski resort town, we were detoured a bit by construction but eventually we made our way up Black Bear Pass road to get a view of the Bridal Veil Falls that overlook the town of Telluride.

Bridal Veil Falls

After a little bit of rest, we rode back down through Telluride and caught the access trail for the Imogene Pass that would take us over to Ouray, CO. This was to be our first test of more difficult off-road riding. The access road is tucked away behind some residential houses but quickly rises up and out of the city with a rock-strewn dirt 4X4 road with some fun switchbacks. When we started to come out above the tree line, we saw evidence of old mining operations that had long since been abandoned.

Old Mining Operations

From here, it was just a quick ride up to the summit and Imogene Pass. At 13,114 feet in elevation, it was the highest road that some of us had ever ridden on.

The Emig Ride Group at Imogene Pass

Amazingly enough, it looked like it had a mail stop…

Imogene Mailbox

Heading down the eastern side of Imogene Pass, we rode in the direction toward Ouray, CO. Along the way, we suffered our first crash. I don’t want to mention names, but… Ken was not hurt. Ken’s sweet KLR650 got a bit sideways on a steep slope and took home some scars.

Ken’s Crash

But Ken was a trooper and hopped back up on his trusty steed. He rode valiantly down to Ouray without taking any more dirt samples. The valley between Imogene Pass and Ouray is absolutely beautiful – a must-see for those “bucket list” adventure riders.

The Valley Between Imogene Pass and Ouray, CO

We rode into Ouray just as the sun was setting over the mountains. We didn’t have much time to explore this cool town, which is an old mining town and boasts primo natural hot springs (dang). Ouray was established in 1875 and was named after a famous Ute chief. Ouray is also the ice climbing capitol of the world. On Main Street (the entirety of which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places), we found a cool Mexican restaurant named Buen Tiempo for dinner.

Inside the Buen Tiempo Restaurant

It was dark when we got back onto our adventure bikes. We still had one leg of asphalt riding to go before we reached our destination in Silverton, CO. From Ouray, we took the Million Dollar Highway towards Silverton. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see why they called it the Million Dollar Highway. From Silverton, we headed through town and took a dirt road for a few miles that brought us to the Eureka Lodge, our lodging for the next two nights.

Eureka Lodge

The Eureka Lodge was a mining lodge built in 1920 and was very rustic but way cool. It was tucked out of the way between Silverton and the Animas Forks ghost town. Each rider had a separate room, and the shared bathrooms were really no issue at all. There wasn’t any cell service or TV… but there was a modern top-of-the-line hot tub. What a way to end a long day of riding! The lodge is owned and run by a super nice couple. It is socked in by snow most of the winter and cut off from regular means of transportation. I asked them if they’d seen The Shining, and they replied that it is not allowed at the lodge…

The Eureka Lodge Hot Tub

Day Two

Since we were planning on staying at the Eureka Lodge another night, we mapped out a loop that would take us over five mountain passes. After a very hearty brekkie, we took off on dirt roads to the Animas Forks mining ghost town – which was only a 10-minute ride from the lodge. It was amazing to think that miners lived there year-round without modern heating systems.

The Animas Forks Ghost Town

From Animas Forks, we rode up and over Engineer Pass which would drop us down into Lake City, CO. The riding up the pass was made up of fun 4X4 roads with tight switchbacks. We rocked the throttle all the way up and took a cool break at the summit.

Jeff Emig and Brandon Petersen (Fox) at Engineer Pass
Left to Right: Jeff Emig, Brandon Petersen (Fox)

Coming down Engineer Pass, the 4X4 roads were fast and furious with beautiful scenery on all sides. The colors were starting to change, the air was crisp and the riding was epic. While Ryan was riding – or better, racing – down the road, he heard a loud noise and thought a rock had hit his skid plate hard. Mike, who was following Ryan, saw something fly off his bike. Ryan’s skid plate had been torn clean off! But, even so, they didn’t stop to investigate the meaning of the sound or the UFO. The missing skid plate was discovered at lunch, and after they ate, they had to retrace their tracks to find the missing skid plate – which they eventually did find. Lesson: If you hear and see something fly off your bike, you should probably stop and investigate.

Two Bikes Riding Down a Scenic Autumn Road

Justin on His KLR650

After lunch in Lake City at Southern Vittles, we mounted back up again and headed out of town toward Cinnamon Pass. The dirt road takes you past Lake San Cristobal and other cool sites. On the dirt 4X4 access road, we saw some adventure riding brothers getting a speeding ticket by an “off-road” sheriff, so remember to keep the speed limit. Cinnamon Pass, like the other passes, was scenic and provided riding enjoyment to the max. We didn’t spend any time on that summit but powered on back to Animas Forks where we met up again with Ryan, Mike and Justin, who had gone back to look for the missing skid plate. Once the gang was all reunited, we took off toward California Gulch on our way up and over California Pass. On the way up, Ken’s bike just slap quit. We discovered that his air filter was so clogged up that the engine just couldn’t breathe. After a quick roadside cleaning, we were back on the trails.

Cleaning the Air Filter

From California Pass, we rode over to Hurricane Pass and got a bird’s-eye view of Lake Como. After crossing over Hurricane Pass, we made our way over to Corkscrew Pass. The descent on this pass was a blast, with fun twists, turns and rolling bumps. The road gets narrow and descends down into thick forest with dense trees and brush on both sides. It was a thrill to ride. The Corkscrew Pass road spit us out onto Highway 550 (the Million Dollar Highway), which connects Ouray with Silverton. By this time, it was late afternoon, and Ray from Rocky Mountain ATV/MC had planned to make a special dinner for the crew, so he and some others took off toward Silverton and the Eureka Lodge. Since we were not able to ride the Million Dollar Highway in the daytime the first time through, a majority of the riders decided to ride down to Ouray, gas up, and then get the Million Dollar Highway experience. It is definitely one of the most scenic highways to ride with its gigantic cliff walls and mountains, big ravines and canyons, sweeping “S” turns, gorgeous valleys, and beautiful streams and waterfalls. If we didn’t have face shields on our helmets, our teeth would have been full of bugs from our huge smiles as we rode.

A Group Photo

That night, at the lodge and after hot-tubbing, Ray and the Rocky Mountain gals served up a fantastic dinner straight outta Southern Louisiana: spicy shrimp boil – loads of shrimp, sausage and potatoes boiled up with spices and then just thrown out on a table for easy pickin’s. Ray’s dinner would easily rival anything that Bubba Gump could conjure up.

Ray’s Shrimp Boil

Nights at the lodge consisted of lots of bench racing, tall tales, relaxing and plenty of billiards. Although many tried, none could beat the billiard skills of Jeff Emig. Apparently motocross skills transfer over to the green felt of the pool table. We all tried and we all lost.

Paul, Mike and Jeff Emig Playing Billiards
Left to Right: Paul aka “Rooster” (Emig’s teammate), Mike (loser #4) and Jeff Emig (billiards king)

Day Three

After packing up and bidding farewell to the Eureka Lodge, we commenced our journey back to Moab, so we rode back to Silverton, gassed up and made our way to Ophir Pass. The Ophir Pass road took us up some tight switchbacks through some nice fall colors. The top of the pass provided one of the most striking valley views of the entire Emig Ride; however, it was difficult to focus on the view for very long because the road at the top section was jagged rock which required our complete attention. The jagged-rock 4X4 road quickly turned into dirt and then led into a beautiful fall-colored canopied section with a gentle slope, rolling bumps and a stream crossing just to keep us on our toes. The Ophir Pass road threw us out onto the highway toward Rico, CO. Although we weren’t on dirt, the vistas were breathtaking. We turned off on a dirt road that led us towards Dunton Hot Springs, and we made our way to Groundhog Lake. Here, we recharged with our homemade hoagies and took some time to relax our booties.

Lake Panorama

From Groundhog Lake, we caught the road to Desperation Creek. It was a dirt road with long, high-speed straightaways. It was pretty dry, so the dust was kicked up, and we had to space ourselves apart. As I rode alone across the high-speed, dusty straights of Desperation Creek, I felt like the biker dude from Raising Arizona. After a while, the road ended at Highway 141, completing the dirt portion of the Emig Ride and thus ending my Raising Arizona daydream. We hit the super slab, headed back through Naturita, and gassed up. Some claim to have gotten bad gas, but it was more like passing bad gas. From Naturita, it was on through Paradox Valley, through the town of La Sal and finally back to Moab.

That night, we had our Emig Ride banquet at the Sunset Grill, which is the former home of the Uranium King, Charles Steen. The restaurant was set up on the cliffs overlooking the town of Moab. The view and the sunset were spectacular. After filling up on the finest food and beverages that Moab has to offer, we took some time to review the trip and our experiences over the last three days of riding. All agreed that the Emig Ride was one of the most fun riding experiences that any of us had ever been on. The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC crew had planned a perfect ride, and every aspect was planned to a T and executed perfectly by Eric the “Trail Boss.” The support crew and the lodging were fantastic. The route contained a good mix of dirt and road, and the difficulty level fit our group like a glove. The beauty of the scenery and vistas was world class. There were no major technical malfunctions and not one flat tire! But the best part of the Emig Ride was the personality of every single participant and the camaraderie that we shared. We all got along like long-lost friends, and we bonded as riders and friends. Our memories of riding through gorgeous mountain passes may fade over time, but we will always enjoy the lasting friendships that were made on the 2014 Emig Ride.

Riding Location Disclaimer

By Scott Oakes