An Appetite for Altitude in the Mountains of Colorado – Part III – Presented by Nitto Tire

Another day. A new day. We made the descent from camp, pulling off and over into a turnout to pop our hoods and air up our tires: we had some driving ahead of us, and for the first time in a while, we’d be pounding some pavement. The goal was to make it to Roddy Turner’s shop in Ridgway, Colorado – which some might recall from his recent 510 wagon feature last month. With shop space, tools, and a rumored shower with hot running water, it beckoned the group as an oasis, a place to mend both trucks and bodies.

The ARB twin compressor in the 60 outpaces the rest of the group, save for Jim Bob, who has one too. Having finished early, I took off down the trail, aiming to capture photos of the group as they came through a rock formation. As touristy and cliche as it might be, it’s hard not to want photos of a truck driving through holes carved in rocks or trees.

Soon after, though, we hit the road and made it to Gunnison, Colorado, roughly two hours outside of our destination. Justin insisted on a lunch stop, raving about a must-have Himalayan restaurant that he never passes up. Fittingly, and probably unsurprisingly, the rest of us childishly got Barbecue while Justin and Rose satiated their desire for hot Naan and who knows what else. It was a welcome break from camp food, and truth be told, my barbecue wings were some of the best I’ve had in a hot minute. After an hour and a half or so, we fueled up and hit the tarmac once more.

We made it to Ridgway on time, chased by looming clouds as we rolled through the town’s one stop light and on down a series of gravel roads, eventually landing at Roddy’s. We were greeted by a host of friends, both pawed and not, as well as some handsome trucks. Roddy’s flatbed international was his camp truck of choice, and I’ve been told his typical setup is a cot on the bed, and an easy-up over the entire back end: both charming and hilarious at once. Rod’s friend, Aussie Matt, also joined in for the evening, with his massive LS-swapped Toyota pickup giving the rest of us a bit of… size envy.

We spent a few hours at Roddy’s shop, and truth be told, it was everything “StanceWorks” is about. I felt right at home amongst friends, drinks, dogs, and trucks… cars too, with Rod’s 510 acting as a centerpiece to the afternoon hang session. Members of the group, one by one, snuck of for showers, while the rest of us battled in ping pong, rode the mini bike, and of course, snapped pictures. I was secretly filled with envy, having suffered my “refreshing” frigid shower the evening before. I like to imagine I hid my envy well, though.

With everyone refreshed, we made our way out of town and further into the foothills of the San Juan mountains to the Roddy’s ranch, a massive plot of land that is home to both livestock and a few small cabins. We had been told the view would blow us away, but the grand reveal was shocking to say the least. A long, rutted, muddy trail eventually gave way to the farm’s clearing. A windmill spun in the distance, pumping well water up for drinking: the farm was entirely off the grid. I waited from afar, snapping shots as Roddy and Jim Bob made it down to camp first. I followed them down, and then I turned around.

Just over the crest of the rolling hills, the San Juan mountains towered over us, their peaks lost in thick cloud cover. It was breathtaking to say the least. After taking in the view, we all pulled into the clearing between the cabins, and rushed inside. Heavy winds had picked up, and the air was as cold as could be. We questioned whether or not to camp inside and escape the miserable winds, but thankfully, they died within the hour. We set up a fire, brought out the food, and did what we do best.

We ate and drank, bundled up and enjoying the cold air, even in mid-June. Roddy laid down the law in an impromptu Red Ryder shoot-off, and I couldn’t help but drag some trucks out into the pasture for some shots before the soft evening light faded entirely.

That night was the worst of the trip. I woke up at 2AM with what I can only assume was mild food poisoning of some sort. I was ready to explode at each end, and made 3 consecutive trips to the outhouse before my guts quit stirring and my body quit shaking. Sunrise came, as it always does though, and after a few more hours of sleep, I was feeling better. We went through our normal morning rituals once again, this time with the farm dogs, too.

Not far away was Yankee Boy Basin, a trail with incredible views perched high in the mountains. We made our way through small town Ouray before hitting the trail, but as we embarked, Eric’s HDJ81 suffered an issue. Initially, we assumed it was the alternator: the truck had lost its electrics. After popping the hood though, the stench of a boiled battery consumed us. Steam was rising out of the battery casing, and we knew then and there that we’d need to find a replacement. In the mean time, though, Eric hopped in another truck, and we began our climb.

Eventually, we reached a dead end: heavy snow drifts made the rest of the trail entirely impassable. We had hoped planning the trip for mid-June would keep us free from snow-covered trails, but we were simply too early in the year.

We made our way back down the mountain and limped Eric’s truck off the hillside. Once back into cell service, we all made an effort to find a shop that could supply not one, but two matching batteries for his 24-volt diesel. A small shop, the “Timber Ridge Service Station” confirmed they had two in stock. We pulled up, and the man behind the counter was licking barbecue sauce off his fingers. He gestured to another door, and told Erik “the other guy’ll help ya.” He then offered us fresh, hot brownies, and against everything my mother taught me as a child, I gladly accepted. It was easily the highlight of the day. They let Eric nose into the shop and swap his batteries. and it was well-timed. The skies opened up and let loose the rain. Moments later, it turned into an all-out downpour.

We waited out the rain for a brief bit and weighed our options. The forecast was storms, rain, and more storms for the foreseeable future, on through the weekend and then some. The idea of huddling in tents and attempting to remain mud-free for the week’s remainder was less than inviting, so we began discussions of where to go. Colorado as a whole seemed less than inviting, but we were close to the Utah border, where things were looking up.

We set off for the border and for a new place to camp. We crossed into Utah, believing the rain was behind us, stopping to look back and admire our time in Colorado. The trip was far from done, nonetheless, we were headed south, and on the hunt for a new chapter in our adventure. Stay tuned for Part IV.


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