For several days now I have been contemplating my route back to Portland Oregon from Denver. While a notional route had been set out months before the trip, talking to people had brought a number of other possibilities to my attention. Principal among them were Independence Pass in Colorado, which I did yesterday; and the Bear Tooth Highway which runs from Red Lodge Montana to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
The former ride was easy to include, as the start is less than three hours west of Denver and the road heads north west, the direction I need to go. The latter requires me to proceed north, and then ride the highway east to west, just what the doctor ordered. But....... it decided it had to start snowing! Now rain and wet roads are not ideal, but ice and slush, especially on two wheels, is just a no-no. So I discard the idea and start contemplating other options, like across Nevada to California and up, taking in Yosemite, perhaps, and variations on the theme. But I really want to do Bear Tooth. I may never get the chance again. The forecasts are for snow Thursday and Friday and fining up for days after that. I speculate that I can hedge my bets by heading north and west to a location where I could wait a day or two and then execute either Bear Tooth or Nevada/California as required. The weather app on my phone and tablet were thrashed several times a day as I kept an eye on the forecasts and I loaded new locations on other possible routes. As the weather changed so did my plan, such as it was. There is a rather crude expression about the eventual need to take action but this is a family blog, So to be polite, this morning over breakfast I made up my mind. North and west it would be, but first I would take the opportunity to see something else.
Now that the bike is getting sort of run-in and I am traveling solo, my fuel consumption is improving nicely. Two up and fully loaded I was averaging 5.2 l/100km, which is not too shabby, considering the bike was not designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. I was pleased when filling up this morning to note that my average is now 4.9l/100km. And on that positive note I promenaded down the main street of Grand Junction for the last time, taking a few photos; and then made my way to the Colorado National Monument which is very close to the town.
The Colorado National Monument is an area of mesas and canyons. It was put on the map - almost literally - by a chap called John Otto, one if the early explorers of the site. It became his passion to promote, preserve and protect the area and his determination was rewarded when the Monument was declared in 1911. He was offered the job of caretaker at a salary of $1.00 per month. He was quite content, apparently. His memory is perpetuated by a handsome statue of him on his horse with his dog, in the main street.
There are a good number of viewing points and many hiking trails. Rock climbing is permitted and the Independence Monument, a red sandstone pillar 450 feet tall, is very popular. There are also three tunnels on the road, hewn out of the solid rock.
This is a pleasant place with some lovely views, but I think hikers and rock climbers get more from it than do the casual tourists like me. I hope I haven't undersold it.
Back to town to purchase a few small items at Walmart where I also got my lunch which I ate on the footpath outside. Remembering a similar occasion in Iowa and missing someone.
Midday and time to go! GPS set for Rangely, Colorado because I wanted to do Co 139, a scenic route which also took me over the Douglas Pass. This part of Colorado is decidedly arid. The mountains are heavily eroded, with classic hoodoo type shapes down their slopes. Barely a tree in sight, in many places. A stark beauty. There are more trees going up the pass, perhaps as a result of relief rainfall? It was impressive, but compared to the other things I have seen, not grand. But nevertheless, worth it. This road, however, was in rather poor condition for much of its length. In places it was dangerous for motorcyclists.
On arriving in Rangely I stopped for coffee and a consultation with the map, my weather app and myself. Conclusion: overnight in Vernal, Utah. From there I can strike north through Rock Springs and Lander Wyoming to Cody and then Red Lodge Montana for Bear Tooth. Assuming the snow is clearing sufficiently. Otherwise, the I 80 will take me west.
The ride to Vernal was interesting, as yet again I rode between two weather events, the one to the north being snow. Grand Junction was 27 C when I arrived yesterday and 23C when I left at noon today. As I proceeded to Vernal the temperature dropped steadily to 15C
So here I am in Vernal. Tomorrow is another day. It is uncertain what it will bring, but it will certainly bring opportunity.