The Four Corners Motorcycle Rally

Riding the Million Dollar Highway - Four Corners Motorcycle Rally

Norm Cooper
December 17, 2012
Filed under WEST

DURANGO, COLO., AUG. 29-SEPT. 3—It’s hard to believe summer has so quickly faded away. The Sturgis Rally has come and gone leaving nothing more than good memories and a hankering for yet another premier destination so after three weeks of the Black Hills, I was ready for a Rocky Mountain high. The Four Corners Rally was sounding like a real good opportunity. Being on the western slope of the Rockies, the run would make for a beautiful ride coming from the east through Wolf Creek Pass on Highway 160.

Southeastern Colorado is a great place to stretch out those old throttle cables as I loped along catching glimpses of the signs that warn, “No Services for 75 Miles.” They indeed seemed to be everywhere from Limon on Highway 71 heading south to Highway 10 and on over to Walsenburg, where long stretches of road are mostly uninhabited.

Camp host Andy hangs out with Joyce and a friend between overseeing the festivities at the Sugar Pine Ranch

Camp host Andy hangs out with Joyce and a friend between overseeing the festivities at the Sugar Pine Ranch

Alamosa turned out to be the perfect staging area for the westbound riders heading into a four-day “Rally of the Rides.” Now for a good night’s sleep, motel rooms could still be had for 40 bucks, along with some excellent Mexican restaurants providing great food at reasonable prices.

There’s no need for an alarm clock, since a parking lot full of Harleys revving up will do as a wake-up call. We were dressed for the chilly mornings and ready for a nice day ride over the Continental Divide through Wolf Creek Pass and several national forests. When the masses got to Durango, everyone veered off in different directions to end up at their own secret hideaways. Mine was a hostel up in the hills of Durango where you’re advised not to leave anything in your saddlebags that the bears might find tasty.

This event is spread out all over the area, and there’s so much to do you really need to have a game plan if you want to get a taste of it all, but Durango is where the fun begins. Bikers were all over the mountains fast and furious, whether alone or in packs. Everybody was getting their crazy on in the pristine back roads and beautiful mountain twisties.

Now, if you found yourself wandering around Ignacio early on Thursday, you’d have noticed things had already begun to fire up at the downtown beer tent. The music was filling the air and beer was flowing like those crystal-clear Colorado rivers, getting everybody ready for the Coors Biker Karaoke. This proved to be a really great place to meet the locals and hear some crazy stories of life on the “Rez.” The Southern Ute Indian Tribe welcomed the bikers with respect and honor. There was a live ’n’ let live vibe or, as we say in the counter culture, don’t start no shit and there won’t be no shit!

The 74th Street Band grabs a bite to eat before going onstage at the Sugar Pine Ranch Rally

The 74th Street Band grabs a bite to eat before going onstage at the Sugar Pine Ranch Rally

The Ignacio Chamber of Commerce combined their downtown festivities with the Southern Ute Fairgrounds for the first time this year, which turned out to be a very successful 20th anniversary event. Just down the road, the Sky Ute Casino Resort had a Hog Wild Weekend planned for riders. From the huge outdoor concert stage, they hosted a weekend full of great entertainment, with my personal favorite being the Mustang Sally Band, and they also had a drawing for a new Dyna Wide Glide. Meanwhile, back at the fairgrounds everybody was having a good time with the biker bull riding and the kids were all cracking up while competing in the mutton-busting event.

The H.O.G. Challenge was very popular. H.O.G. chapters were competing against each other for a trophy and the bragging rights that accompanied the privilege of flying their chapter flag over the Ignacio fairgrounds next year. The competition included playing rounds of golf, bowling, shooting and assorted field events.

The next day’s adventure had me heading west towards Mancos in search of the Sugar Pine Ranch Rally. I had made some new friends and they wanted me to come on out to the ranch and jiggle it a little. The thing about making friends with strangers is you just never know who they might be. In this case, Joyce would turn out to be the Sugar Pine rancher’s daughter and I would end up wanting to write a story about her daddy and his very cool ranch. And who knew that Matt would turn out to be the drummer in the 74th Street Band and I’d spend a couple hours backstage meeting his friends and talking shit sideways? I’ve discovered one should never be too busy to accept an invitation for fun or to hang with musicians.

Downtown Durango was packed with paraders

Downtown Durango was packed with paraders

Once you found the ranch and pulled off the highway, you knew immediately that you had just arrived at an all-American working cattle ranch. Glen Humiston is the owner of the Sugar Pine Ranch out in Mancos, and since 2007 he has given his blessing for Joyce and her friends to put on one big-ass, adult-only party during the Four Corners Rally. Run by the mountain people that live there, there are very few rules, but your camp host Andy will be the first to tell you that, “If you’re gonna act like an asshole, I’m gonna treat ya like one.” These folk are carrying on the traditions of true brotherhood and welcome all to their mountain home for the weekend. If you’re looking for a great biker experience, I would suggest taking a look at their website as you plan your next Labor Day weekend (www.sugarpineranchrally.com).

Saturday was a good day for heading up towards Silverton on Highway 550, dubbed the Million Dollar Highway. This is a top-ranked, must-do ride and all I can say is be prepared for anything, since it’s the monsoon season during the rally. There could be rain, fire, smoke, strong wind gusts or hail storms.

On Sunday I sauntered on down to the “International Tourist Destination” of downtown Durango. Everyone was getting ready to watch the big Labor Day parade. This was a very strange crowd of tourists from all walks of life and from all over the world coming together to soak up a little biker flavor. The smell of French perfume and fresh $100 bills were coming from the Historic Strater Hotel, as Internet cafes full of happy people drinking espresso and having some carrot cake were poking at their keyboards. This was quite out of the ordinary considering the streets were lined with motorcycles.

The parade started with some very cool cars followed by a fantastic show of gleaming motorcycles. The club of women riders wowed me as they came down the street standing on their seats and doing all sorts of tricks that left us slack-jawed in awe. I couldn’t do that stuff on my best day, yet these ladies made it look simple.

This is truly a Rally of the Rides, just as founders Mike Lovata and Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell had in mind some 20 years ago. Mike told me, “This is still my baby and they call me Grandpa,” which spoke to the longevity of the run, regardless of the identity crisis this event seems to have struggled with over the years.

A three-year contract has been agreed upon between the city of Ignacio and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to continue the rally, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year.

 

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