Rio Grande Road Trip: Day One (in Photos)

Tim shot this photo while driving from Boulder to pick me up in Denver. He'd just stopped off at Canoe Colorado, where he picked up our NovaCraft Prospector, which the shop rigged for us for whitewater paddling. Knee pads, an extra thwart, and cargo netting to keep our gear from shifting.
After picking me up from the hotel, we drove to the Denver Bass Pro Shops to grab some last minute gear, including most of the lures and terminal tackle we'd need. Stuff you don't want to carry on an airplane. In this photo we're figuring out the best lines to spool on our reels. As usual, the Bass Pro staff was both knowledgable and extremely friendly.
The chase truck, fully loaded. Toyota lent us a 2010 4Runner for the trip. Good thing it's got a bunch of cargo space. We needed all the room we could get to store our paddling, fishing, and riding gear, as well as all of Tim's camera equipment.
After leaving Bass Pro Shops, Tim and I drove the chase truck south from Denver to Colorado Springs and picked up my dad. He had to wedge in behind the drivers seat for the 20 minute ride from the airport to the motorcycle dealership that had our KLR 650s waiting.
At the dealership we unpacked the truck and organized everything before hitting the road.
Dad needed some extra time to practice with the bike before I was comfortable letting him out on the highway, so we left Colorado Springs later than planned, at 4:30 in the afternoon, for the 6-hour ride to South Fork, where we were planning to spend the night. Tim took this quick snapshot through the windshield as we were heading west through South Park.
The late start meant we had three hours of riding in the dark. At altitude. Even though we'd dressed warmly, it was freezing outside. We rode with our legs pressed tight to our fuel tanks so that we could soak up as much heat from the engine as possible. Here we're stopped at Loretta's, a trucker's cafe in Mineral Springs, about two-thirds of the way to South Fork, to warm up with hot coffee and homemade apple pie. They turned off the "open" sign two minutes after we walked through the door.
Riding a motorcycle requires extreme concentration, especially at night, when you can't see anything but what's in the cone of your headlight. But maintaining a safe level of focus is draining, especially if you're an inexperienced rider. It's important to take breaks often. We stopped for at least 15 minutes every 60 miles, including at this closed gas station near the turnoff to South Fork.
Entering Rio Grande County, Colorado. Home of the river's headwaters. 20 minutes after passing this sign we were crawling into bed at a cheap motel, totally exhausted. It had been a long day.

Last fall, Field & Stream Online Editor Nate Matthews and his father, Bruce, spent 15 days fishing the Rio Grande River from its headwaters in Colorado's Continental Divide all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. These excerpts from their journals tell the story of their 2500-mile motorcycle ride along the historic river, taken during momentous times in the lives of both father and son. Photographer/vidographer Tim Romano documented the excursion. Look for the print feature in June 2011.