Hotchkiss to Colorado National Monument: (July 7th)
We got up and headed down route 92, heading downhill for 20 miles (we were leaving the mountains) to Delta, C.
After chowing down in a Safeway grocery store, we continued to Grand Junction on highway 50, a four lane divided road.
The surrounding landscape had turned to desert, so we made sure we had plenty of water for the 40 mile stretch. The environment was beautiful, with harsh looking cliffs and grand mesas.
Unfortunately, the road was a little treacherous. The shoulder was littered with debris, which I tried unsuccessfully to dodge.
Twenty miles in to the forty mile stretch, I heard the whooshing sound sound of air leaving my tire. I pulled to the side and plucked a small but nasty piece of glass out of my rear tire. This was flat tire # 3 for the trip. Not that bad for over 2000 miles, but it was still annoying.
I quickly changed the tube, and decided it was time for a new rear tire. After we arrived in Grand Junction, we got some business done: I got a new rear tire to replace my overly worn one, and Jason and Marc got a water filter for the desert.
We decided to camp in the Colorado National Monument, a national park on top of the mesa outside of town. The ride up the mesa was a four mile winding road, continuously uphill, but the views were worth the climb.
For the second day in a row, I decided that I was seeing the most impressive landscape I had ever seen. The eroded red sandstone has created a variety of rock formations, totally new to my eyes.
At the campground, our tent site overlooked the towns in the valley below, and we watched as storms rolled through, creating an intense show of lightning.
Being the only touring cyclists around, we were invited to two different campsites for food. One couple from California was taking the summer to see the sights of the Southwest. They lived out of their SUV and cooked us Brat’s and Italian Sausages. We crawled safely into our tents just as a storm came over top the mesa.
Colorado National Monument to Moab, Utah: (July 8th)
It was now time to really get into the desert, and today’s ride would be a century (100 miles) to Moab, Utah.
We headed down out of the park into Fruita, CO, and stocked up on water and Gatorade because we would be riding 90 miles without any access to civilization.
Jason is a Utah native, and his parents were going to drive through the area to see him and make a visit to Moab. Jason warned us that they could be slightly unreliable, so we shouldn’t depend on them for our water.
We started through the desert, on a road paralleling Interstate 70. We had a tailwind, and flew down the nicely paved road, approaching the Utah border.
The miles flew by, and riding in the still cool morning air, we hardly noticed we were in a desert. But, as we crossed the Utah border, the nicely paved road turned into a nightmarish rutted and gravel-filled trail.
Jason had been sure it was paved, but I guess that was relative. The next 15 miles consisted of careful weaving to avoid deep potholes, and trying to find the most “paved” section of the rocky path.
We finally made it to the next intersection of the road with I-70, and decided to tough it out on the interstate. Unlike Interstates on the East Coast, bicycles are allowed on I-70, probably because of the very roads we had just ridden on.
The shoulder was huge and mostly debris free and we made quick time to our exit.
Jason’s parents came through big time, and met us in Cisco, a ghost town of crumbling buildings just off the interstate. Cisco had been a thriving town until the railroad lost its importance, and now has a population of 5 people.
They brought snacks and huge water cooler, and we ate and filled our bottles.
Leaving Cisco, we headed towards the Colorado river canyon that we would follow into Moab. Until we got to the canyon, though, we were on a high plain, and a storm was directly ahead of us. The road headed straight towards the dark sky, and I saw more than one bolt of lightning.
Just as the winds began to pick up and we started to get stung by sideways droplets of rain, the road turned sharply left and we headed downhill into the Canyon, away from the storm.
Once in the canyon, I was on cloud 9. The road hugged the Colorado River, and the canyon grew deeper. We were surrounded by staggering red cliffs with all kinds of rock formations dotting the tops. I felt incredibly lucky to be able to ride through such an awesome landscape, and for twenty miles we rode wide eyed until we decided to take a swim in the river.
The last twenty miles to Moab brought more deep-red cliffs and in Moab we stayed with friends of Marc at the town’s Multicultural Center.
At the local diner, I chowed down on a Chile Verde burrito, feeling like I made the right decision to stick with the Bamboo bikers.