US HWY 550 The Million Dollar Highway
Highway 550 is the official name for the 70-mile ribbon
of asphalt connecting Ouray and Durango, CO. But it goes by several other
names, as well. The best known name for U.S. 550 as it crosses the San Juan Mountains in Colorado is “Million Dollar Highway”. 242 turns, 71 miles, three passes over 10,000 feet, mountain rivers and lakes, jaw dropping views. One great motorcycle ride!
An original origin myth holds that
the highway is buttressed by fill dirt that contains a million dollars
in gold ore. Others maintain that the name comes from a phrase used to
describe a common reaction to the road’s perilous twists and turns,
especially in winter: “You’d have to pay me a million dollars to drive
that stretch in the snow.”
Riding the Million Dollar Highway is to have your head on a swivel. The road soars high in the San Juans, summiting three
passes: Red Mountain (11,018 feet), Coal Bank (10,640) and Molas (10,970
feet). Everywhere are stunning alpine panoramas. At 1.5 million acres,
the San Juan National Forest is the largest national forest in Colorado.
The hillsides fronting U.S. 550 contain 23 varieties of evergreens. Shoulders are limited and no guard rails are just part of the ride.
Stopping at Molas Pass Nancy and I met two couples on Harleys. In less than a minute we were sharing stories of the road. They were from Oklahoma. Making a big loop up into the Rockies and then back to the flat lands. Brothers and sisters of the road. It wasn't hard for all of us to have big smiles on our faces as we turned in circles taking in the grand landscape and beauty of our country. Sharing it. That's what it's all about.
be strong, be safe, Carlan