Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’
Posted on June 19, 2010 - by Nadia
Midday, Vernal Utah
25 excruciatingly slow miles down.
Pausing to post in Vernal, Utah, I would be remiss if I didn’t report on the winner of the hands down best food of the trip so far:
Cesar and Coco at Taco el Gordo on Main Street, Vernal, put three eggs, chorizo and potato together like nobody’s business. And the green sauce? Yes! Fiery flavor that lives a little longer on sunburnt lips. Yum yum yum. This moves Rebecca’s in Springer, New Mexico, down to second,where she is vying with a peanut butter-smudged apple I had by the side of the road a while ago.
Cesar and Coco cater to the oilfield workers out of a classic roadside taco truck. Originally from the Mexico City area, they moved to Denver more than 20 years ago and have been working the Vernal scene for several years. The town used to be booming with oil and gas workers, many from Latin America, but the economy has cut into the oil and gas industries in the last couple of years and Cesar says now it is just holding steady.
One of his customers, a black guy from Colorado Springs said he came here to work in the oil fields, but picked up the skills to become a diesel mechanic. He’s been doing that for two years now, he said. “I’m all about adding knowledge he said,” sporting a CU Buffs jersey. “That was a pretty big change for a city guy coming down here.”
His race is notable because he is only the second African American I’ve seen on this trip, the other guy was walking toward Douglas Pass wearing a floppy hat and carrying a duffel bag. I stopped to talk, thinking I’d found Don Quixote. Maybe I had, he seemed happy with his lot in life, heading for Grand Junction. I was shocked to see him — or anyone — walking out there. I asked him if he hitchhiked, he said he’d take a ride if a nice person stopped, but he could waste the whole day standing there with his thumb out.
With that, thanks Cesar — If I see you down the road I’m going for the Vernal Omelette: FIVE eggs, ham, bacon, chorizo, potatoes and quacamole.
Posted on June 19, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 15: June 18, 2010
Canyon Pinturado to west gate, Dinosaur National Monument
Oh, this is the part everyone said was boring, boring, but riveting — eyes constantly toggling between looking back to see the next jackass oil field worker bearing down on me, and glancing ahead to see my best exit ramp if I need to bail on the white stripe that serves as my bike lane. Not a bad diversion as I rolled through Rangeley to Dinosaur, then on to Jeser, Utah rolling though high prairie. The high point: remarkable cactus blooms splashing improbable pinks and yellows beneath the sage.
Attention, gentlemen of the oil and gas fields. There are two pedals at your feet. One is the gas. You seem familiar with that. The other is known as the brake. If you sense that you are overtaking a biker at the same time as oncoming traffic, experiment with the brake and let the other car go rather than squeezing yourself between the biker and the car. A flick of the gas pedal and you’ll be right back on pace.
While I have your attention, let’s talk about the lines on the road. The yellow one, if you were to stop and take a look, is just a line. It is not an impenetrable force field, or a virtual wall. You may, if there is no oncoming traffic, cross this line in order to give bikes or pedestrians on the shoulder save passageway. In Colorado, this is actually law, when safe cross the solid line to put three feet between you and a bike. On the other side of your lane is a white line. It too is just paint. It confers no special protections on people traveling to the right of it – it’s not a force field either. Like so many abstractions, these lines are only as powerful as the minds that grasp their meaning. They are special suggestions. Actual common-sense requires that you engage your brain in order to proceed safely for a lifetime on the highway.
Congratulations to the pickup truck drivers of the extensive oil and gas play from the Douglas field through the Rangely field, you are by far the worst drivers I’ve encountered on my trip. The men you will become, the one’s in the RVs, they are a distant second. The men and women with the really tough job, the big rig drivers, they’re pros. They know that avoiding trouble equals saving time in a way that crossing the line just doesn’t. They’re the cream of the crop in today’s poll. To those of you who are exceptions to today’s lousy driver pool: thanks, and teach your brothers well.
The bright spot today: With all the rain, the cactus have burst into bloom and spots of bright pink and light yellow peek out from the sage on the most unlikely hillsides.
Posted on June 18, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 14: June 17, 2010
Fruita to Canyon Pinturado (about 10 miles south of Rangely)
Everyone who heard I was going to take this route to Dinosaur said, Ugh, boring. And no one really blinked an eye that I would climb Douglas Pass. Well, the route has been spectacular and Douglas Pass (elev. 8240, up from about 4,500) was nothing to take lightly. After about 30 miles of approach, during which I stopped for lunch and a nap, rode about a mile, stopped and cleaned my bike because it was sluggish, I crawled my way up the pass. I have been east of Dinosaur, years ago, and remember it being a flat, white, alkaline wasteland. I expected the same. I was wrong. Most of the approach, all of the climb and most of the descent was forested and touched by a cool breeze. The descent culminated in the Canyon Pinturado, a stretch of canyon with pictographs attributed to the Fremont people. I am camped on a slope in one of those side canyons, intent on continuing touring my way to Rangely for lunch tomorrow. (Internet in Rangely is slow. I’ll leave this as a place holder and move on toward Dinosur and Vernal.)
Posted on June 18, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 13: June 16
Montrose to Fruita
Intent on flying through this next section of the trip, I took advantage of an early tail wind and wide shoulder and flew along Hwy 50 as it bisects the Umcompahgre Valley, following that river’s rush to join the Gunnison and then the Colorado. The tailwind became a quartering breeze that stiffened, forcing me to fight for control on the downhills, but still helpful on the ups. That changed as high wind advisories went out and I struggled to make the final 10 miles or so to Fruita. Stayed at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Campground, an over-sanitized place full of rafting families having a good time and huge, deluxe RVs. Cost $16. The wind came up and stayed up most of the night; a fitful sleep.
Towering red cliffs to the south, forested mesas and alkaline flats to the north, Fruita is working hard to earn a name as THE place to mountain bike if you’re done with the Moab scene. The local maps show plenty to do, plus wide open BLM and USFS lands if you prefer to freelance your day rides.
The hardest part of getting to Fruita was navigating Grand Junction. At 48,000 it has a smaller population than Casper but it felt much, much larger. Thanks to Michelle, the post mistress at the Whitewater post office, I dodged the network of I-80 and state highways and got onto the Colorado River bike path.
I worked hard to get to the tiny town of Whitewater, only to discover it’s not much more than a post office. But I needed a rest and had some stuff to mail, so that’s where I went. Wind was howling. Michelle, a super enthusiastic veteran of the postal service, gave me an iced tea, let me use the bathroom and told me how to navigate Grand Junction.
Grand Junction is sandwiched between remarkable red rock canyons, similar to Moab or the Grand Canyon, on one side of the valley, and white alkaline rises on the other side, similar to Rock Springs. The city seems to be reclaiming its industrial waterfront and the bike path and riparian restoration efforts are at the heart of that. I recrossed the river on Hwy 6, on a hunch, and followed a highway toward Fruita. This turns out to be a popular and very scenic road bikers’ route
By now, the wind was knocking me sideways.I had to stop and lie in the lee of a roadside electrical box, just waiting the gusts out and hoping rain would hurry and quench the winds. It did, briefly, and I road like crazy, trying to beat a return of the wind.
I rode through increasingly amazing scenery – the red cliffs pushing higher, to 1500 feet, even as they got closer to the highway. The houses got increasingly mansion like, with gated communities and vineyards, very fancy. Increasingly astonished at the scenery, I was stunned to arrive at the gateway to the Colorado Monument National Park. I could have camped there, but did not have legs for a four-mile climb. It looked gorgeous. Fruita was just below the gate a couple of miles and I beat a hasty retreat to a campground there. The wind rose again and I just called the day quits. There’s no use fighting a gale. The next day the paper reported trees through houses and several tumbled travel trailers. Very Casperish conditions.
Posted on June 15, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 11 and 12: June 14 and 15
55 miles and 35 miles, respectively.
Red Bridge Campground to Montrose, then layover day at Montrose with side trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The 15-mile Blue Mesa Road was chilly and muddy offering stunning views of remote mesas, made more impressive by misty clouds pressing directly down on the high, flat prairiescape. Highway 50 proved to be an exhilarating rollercoaster of a ride up and down long swaths of highway, then plunged into narrow, twisting canyons. A Keepler elf truck driving in the shoulder was the closest – and weirdest – call of the day. The remarkable expanse that is the Upanhangre Valley that contains Montrose was a tremendously welcome sight. I regretted charging right past Black Canyon National Park, so instead of climbing Grand Mesa out of Delta, I stayed in Montrose a second night and spent the day resupplying and backtracking 15 miles to the National Park. I did not need new brake pads.
Going on a bike ride is like putting out a newspaper. Every day you know what you need to do. The details change, but the command remains the same: Get up and ride. Get up and put out a newspaper. Taking a day off threw me off my routine. On my day off, I unhooked the trailer and backtracked about 16 miles, and climbed about 3,000 feet, to poke around the rim of the Black Canyon.
The canyon is a remarkable find, tucked back in the folds of the flat-topped mesa. It is over 2,500 feet deep in places, and less than a quarter mile wide, a much more intimate canyon than the Grand, for instance. Although the Gunnison looks tiny at the bottom of the canyon, its song, accompanied by that of the canyon wren, is remarkably soothing and helped me ignore the fact that I overdid both the sun and the ride on my day off. I topped that by eating way too much Indian food.
I like Montrose. It reminds me a lot of Casper.
Posted on June 9, 2010 - by Nadia
Day 6: June 9, 2010
From: Rio Grande to Mugote, CO
Still hot, still windy, but mostly I stayed still
Josie left Clayton, NM in 1890, so as I deviate from her actual route to Sumner, Wash., I am staying alert for signs of the times in that year. Antonito, Colorado, was taking off then. That was the year the Palace Hotel was built on Main Street. It was the year the Conejos County Courthouse was built, things were taking off. The Denver-Sante Fe narrow gauge railway was most likely chugging through town, just as it does twice a day for scenic tours now. And Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Church was standing tall, as it had been since the first picket church was built on the same site in 1858, site of Colorado’s oldest continuous church.
I spent most of today at a picnic table under a huge pine tree at the church, making repairs to my bike and talking to Ingrid and Angelo.
I ran into Ingrid at the grocery store. Actually, I ran into her fully loaded touring bike outside of the grocery store and ran back in to see whose it was. We almost hugged each other. Two women riding solo in opposite directions through this tiny town. She has been biking and hitching since South Carolina. Phew.
Three years ago Angelo Valasquez was “volunteered” to maintain the church grounds. Boy, is the church getting its money’s worth. The lawn is gorgeous and the church is a true shelter from the storm. Angelo filled me in on how the local rivers flow to reach the Rio Grande (east, then south, then sharply north) and on the importance of irrigation (“This is high desert, without irrigation, no one would be here.”)
Ingrid and I checked out Cano’s Castle, twin aluminum clad towers that peek up from a back street east of town. Like the Watts Towers in LA, they are one man’s source of sanity. Ingrid and I discussed coincidence and whether it exists, and spirituality and its source and shape as we wound our way to the oldest church in Colorado.
With Angelo’s permission, under the tree, I patched both tubes with holes, spliced the broken odometer cable back together (it worked!) and taped it to my top tube so it won’t twist off again (don’t worry, I didn’t tape the brake cable.) I also worshiped at the church of the clean chain, a denomination I was introduced to by evangelists Erik Digby and Alex Gallegos. (You could replace your contacts in the reflection off my master link, Erik!)
When all was done I went inside the church to say thanks for the day of rest. It’s huge stained glass windows are testament to the local devotion. Like its yard, the church is neat and serene.
When I went outside, I found two popsicles on the table, still cold and delicious despite the heat. That’s my angel of the day: Angelo.
And his dog? His name is Yukon. Coincidence? You decide.
I’ll be offline for a few days as I pass through the mountains. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned.