Back on the road, we started the trek up to Independence Pass with warnings to "layer up." It's quite a climb. Passing cars uphill at elevation on the 40ish-horsepower KLR required planning and patience. I slowly fell to the back of the pack with the other KLRs, where we belonged. Independence Pass is, in my opinion, the most interesting and among the highest (elev. 12,095 feet) peaks of the many we climbed. (Cottonwood Pass is actually 31 feet higher). The temps dropped to their lowest of the entire trip, and at the peak it was about 32 degrees and raining/sleeting. The vegetation and habitat up there look positively tundra-ish, and we were not far from treeline. Riding toward Aspen, I took the lead and headed out. Riding alone for a stretch of 20 miles or so provided a feeling of freedom and satisfaction, and my KLR was an animal downhill, dropping "cages" at will. Aspen was a departure from the many small and mostly original mining towns that we passed through. A different world, and more like the one I left behind, so I was happy to continue right through on my way to our third night's destination: Glenwood Springs. It was before Glenwood that we experienced the heaviest downpour of the trip by far. The rain was literally bucketing down, and I was wondering what the hell I was thinking riding in a motocross helmet and goggles. The huge drops pounded my skin at 70 mph with eye-watering effect. Below my neck, however, I stayed completely dry. I'd never experienced this level of rain-worthiness in riding gear, and became a believer at this point.