The Gateway Loop

[ February 2020 | San Juan Silver Stage | By Mike Simpson, Artist on a Harley]

A great little ride to break up the cabin fever that begins to set in this time of year is what I affectionately call the “Gateway Loop.” Of course, this time of year, it can be a bit brisk for a motorcycle ride. I’m not that hard core, so maybe I’ll take the touring car. Hop in and we’ll go on a little ride.

Highway 141 from Whitewater will get us started. This is part of the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway and the Old Spanish Trail. There’s lots of history along this road. You’ll climb through the Unaweep Canyon to begin with, beautiful scenic red rock formations along the way. Homesteads and ranches dot the landscape. You are entering some fine, wild country.

When you top out at the Unaweep summit, you’ll notice you’ve gained some elevation, and it can be a little chilly up here. During the summer, it’s a welcome relief from the scorching temps of the valleys below. Just past the summit, on the south side of the road, you’ll notice the remains of an old rock building. This is the old Driggs Mansion. There’s a pullout right here and an information sign that tells all about it. The short story is that it was built in the early 1900s by Laurence Driggs. Well…actually it was a local stonemason who built it, but Larry owned the place and hired the stone mason. The sign will tell you more or you can google it before you go.

A number of brave souls call this country home. You’ll pass by their places along the way. Eventually you’ll come to the little hamlet of Gateway. Closed now, an old cafe with a TEXACO sign outside used to serve up a really good burger. A few families still remain, well as the community church. Gateway is also home to the Gateway Dynamite Shoot put on by the Gateway Fire Protection District twice a year as a fundraiser. You can google this one, too, and find more information. A fun time, indeed.

Of course, the big attraction in Gateway these days is the Gateway Canyons Resort. Built by John Hendricks, owner of the Discovery Channel, the resort is a luxury destination.

Left: Painting from his Harley.  Above: Original painting by Mike Simpson. (Both images, courtesy of the artist)

Residing in the shadow of the Palisade rock formation, guests can stroll the grounds, tour the world-class vintage car museum, go horseback riding or four wheeling, or take part in a host of other activities to enhance your stay. Without trying to sound like a paid commercial or endorsement for the place, I can attest to the beauty firsthand.

My wife, Kathy, and I have stayed at the resort, delighting in their accommodations and fine dining, partaking of massage, and enjoying our own private hot tub, right outside our room. I can personally recommend the stay if you’re looking for a romantic getaway with your sweetheart. (We like to celebrate our Valentine’s Day anniversary here.)

Even if you don’t stay, at the least, you should visit the car museum and enjoy a meal while there.

We’ll explore more of this country in future episodes. There are great photo ops, paintable landscapes, and numerous adventures to go on from here. I’ve been on a lot of them on my Harley, and they make for some memorable rides…both long and short.

Until next time, thanks for tuning in, and I’ll see you out there somewhere.

I’m Mike Simpson, Artist on a Harley