Archive for October, 2010

Day 33- Moab, UT

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Utah

Waking up the next morning was exciting, for two reasons- we would be crossing another state line, and we would do a real century. We didn’t have a choice in either matter- Fruita was the last town we would be able to stop in with services until reaching Moab, and reaching it only subtracted 11 of the 102 miles we would be riding that day.
We took off through Fruita, following what appeared to be a back road through town trying to reach I-70 (it turned to be Highway 50/US 6). We passed signs saying that there was no access to the main highway, but those signs also had the “Colorado Bikeways” logo which usually indicates that the route is, surprise surprise, suitable for bike travel and is an alternative to the main road. After about an hour, however, we started to question the validity of that thought as we had done nothing but pass through ranch land, with houses growing further and further between. The quality of the road decreased with every mile towards the state line. Far off in the distance we could make out the movement of semis on the highway, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of where we would eventually connect back to I-70.
At some point we encountered our first cattle guard and a sign informing us that we were now on the open range.

We stopped for a few minutes, taking in the surroundings. I felt a little bizarre, staring at the unending countryside all around, taking in the the feeling of being 100% in the middle of nowhere. I wondered if we had passed the state line yet, if there was even going to be a marker for it.
We couldn’t stay for too long however; baking in the full-on afternoon sun is just as tiring as not stopping at all, and we took off down the road again. After many more miles and a couple more cattle guards, we suddenly came upon a small white obelisk, covered with graffiti and bullet holes. We had finally reached the state line, and managed to orient ourselves a little bit.

Almost immediately upon crossing the state line the road turned to utter crap. The road was littered with large rocks, loose gravel, and potholes up to several inches deep. The sections that were still relatively paved were jagged from a old, worn-down chip-seal job that looked as if no one had attempted to repair it in 20 years. This section of Highway 50 west of the state line, while about a fifth as long as the stretch to the east, felt far more grueling than the distance we had just covered.
Eventually the road came to an abrupt end, meeting back up with I-70. We hopped on the interstate with its wide, smooth shoulders, happy to be leaving old 50 behind. We made great time on this stretch of the highway, only taking a couple of breaks. The sky had slowly been growing grayer and grayer as the day passed, and we were starting to see storms far off. There was no fear of riding through should the storm overtake us, as we had seen no signs of lightning and we were no longer in the mountains.
The sign for the Cisco turn-off finally came into view, which meant that we would be leaving I-70 and heading through the open desert towards the town with a population of six that has been listed in travel guides as a ghost town. After an hour or so we arrived in the middle of it: open fields containing decrepit shacks with caved-in roofs, rusted, derelict cars and farm equipment over grown by flora, sharp winds blowing brush and dust, whipping amongst the detritus. Despite the proof of a former human existence here, Cisco felt even more lost and alone than the open range we had traversed earlier that day.
We ran out of water right around this time, but we knew we would be meeting up with the Colorado soon and had water purification tablets. The sky was gray and the air had cooled off as the rain moved closer. We lay in the middle of the road, relaxing for some time. After about half an hour we suddely heard the sound of a vehicle approaching, and to our fortune it turned out to be a rafting crew. They let us fill our water and wished us well.
After another hour or so we finally came to the turn-off for Castle Valley.

Jon, being much taller than me, managed to get a Gear Exchange and Spokiz sticker thrown up on the road sign. We snapped a pic then took off to finish up the last stretch. The landscape was still not showing signs of change, and I was starting to wonder what the big deal was about Moab.
As we made our way down 128 and met back up with the river, the rain finally caught up with us a little bit. It was nice and light, a cooling summer shower coming down in infrequent intervals. Slowly our surrounding became more and more interesting, until finally we were surrounded by the red canyons walls. Despite the green grass and blue sky, it felt a little alien. Arid, mostly barren rich red dirt, towering cliff faces, boulders the size of elephants lining the road- the landscape started to take on a Martian feel. Eventually the canyon opened up and we received some stunning views.

We pushed on through the canyon, stopping once for water at the Castle Creek Winery. I was anxious to get into town; despite how beautiful the ride was my energy and enthusiasm were definitely draining fast. The only other stop we made before entering the city limits right around nightfall was at the spring on the very edge of the canyon. Jon asked someone if it was the same spring he remembered from his previous visit, and he was told the story of how the city had tried to close it off after the discovery of some unknown organic compound in the water. The townspeople ripped the cement off, stuck a little makeshift spout on the end, and city never bothered trying to close it up again.
We stopped at a convenience store on the north edge of town and figured out what our next move would be. We had less than ten bucks between the two of us, so food-wise it was time to get resourceful. We rode around town a little looking for a place to crash, and once we did I was out in about five minutes. I quickly fell asleep, lazily watching for shooting stars and constellation gazing at the sky above.


Day 32- Grand Junction, CO

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Colorado

When we awoke the next morning the very first thing I noticed was that Jon’s face looked kind of funny. Something had bit his upper lip in the middle of the night, and it was now swollen and tender to the touch.

We stopped to grab him a razor and some allergy medicine, then pushed on towards Grand Junction. Today was going to be our last day in Colorado, and I was getting excited about seeing the high desert for the first time. Our route was starting to flatten out as we made our way along the I-70 corridor towards the state line, although the surrounding land still contained smaller canyons and mesas as we moved across the western foothills of the Rockies.
We rode past the Roan Plateau as we moved into the small De Beque-Palisade-Grand Junction valley area. Peaches and wine grapes are extensively farmed in the valley, creating an extremely vibrant little field of intense emerald green that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the area. There are numerous wineries and roadside produce stands as you move towards Grand Junction, and we definitely stopped at our share of them. The local wines are wonderful, and the peaches- well, I have never eaten a tastier (or larger) peach than the one we bought from a stand just outside the De Beque Canyon Winery.
Once you enter Grand Junction, however, all of that changes pretty quickly. Grand Junction is fairly large, as it is the only real city until you reach Moab, just over 100 miles away. We cruised around for a bit, finally stopping for a bite to eat. We hung out for a few hours and chatted with some locals while we let Jon’s phone charge since we weren’t certain of having an outlet where we crashed for the night. Once we left we made our way to a fairly large park where the Peach Festival had been held that day. We originally planned on camping under the pavilion, until we found ourselves too deeply engaged in a conversation with a slightly unhinged (but kind and soft-spoken) older homeless man. He insisted on talking our ears off which is ultimately what prompted us to the move to a different park- there was no way we would be able to get to sleep around him.
The second park we went to seemed perfect at first. There was a covered pavilion with outlets to charge our stuff, and a large evergreen close by that, oddly enough, had a triangular section missing from the bottom that hid us and our gear perfectly from view of any cops. We quickly scouted the area to make sure that there were no sprinklers close by, and started to settle in for the night. About five minutes after getting comfortable, we heard the sounds of people yelling from a few hundred feet away. Suddenly, a guy and girl- both only in undergarments and clenching their clothes, ran into our line of few. The male was yelling his displeasure over something at some other people that we could hear but not see as he ran out of the park. We laughed about it and went back to getting comfortable for the night, when we heard the telltale sign of the sprinklers popping up. This startled us as the sound was coming from an area that we thought was free of them. I decided to get up and check one last time to make sure our area was safe- and as I did, I saw a cop car pull and an officer get out. He had definitely seen me, and once he asked for my id there was no way to avoid the fact that we were attempting to camp out in the park. As I was walking back to our tree, sprinklers suddenly started going off around us. They were about 30 seconds away from soaking our campsite, and the cop laughed as we scrambled to move our stuff under the pavilion and out of the way. The timing and humor of the entire situation ended up being our saving grace; while running our ids, he, in a very roundabout way, let us know that as long as we relocated to a different park and no one saw us, we could get away with camping out for the night. We thanked him for his lenience and made our way to a new spot, finally putting the day to an end.

Day 31- Rifle, CO

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Colorado

Before I get started with this post, obviously the first thing that needs to be addressed is the long hiatus the website has taken. I’m not going to give away the ending just yet; suffice to say that between chaos back home in Texas, various injuries, illness, pitfalls, and crises, all mixed in with an unexpected change of plans, working on this has had to be placed on the back burner. Jon and I are still alive however, and we thank everyone wholeheartedly who expressed concern over our disappearance.

The morning we left Glenwood Springs was another one of those where we got off to an unexpectedly late start. Riding in the storm the day before had left us with soaked and muddy clothing which was certainly the first thing to attend to. We also decided that on the way out of town it would be a good idea to stop and clean off our bikes again, so we decided to hit up a cool looking shop called the Gear Exchange for some bike TLC.

This shop is definitely one of my favorites- the vibe is great, they have an awesome eclectic selection of merchandise, and the employees were all really friendly and fun to talk to. We chatted about the scene in Glenwood and somewhere during the conversation it was brought up that Koichi Yamaguchi and his school were located just down the road in Rifle, an leisurely 27 miles away. Since we were already farther behind schedule than we had intended for the day (it was almost noon by the time we left town), we decided that we might as well just stop in Rifle for the night and see if it would be possible to meet him and see the school.
We finally left Glenwood and headed off to the west. There were some nice rolling hills as we made our way through New Castle and Silt into Rifle, and the overall descent made the few hours of riding we did a breeze. The landscape was slowly growing hotter and more arid as we made our way across the Western Slope, preparing us for what we would experience in Utah. Despite the bias I had developed towards the lush coolness of the mountains, the area we were crossing now was not without its own beauty, many parts of it reminiscent of the terrain we had seen passing from Texas into New Mexico.
We arrived in town that afternoon and set off looking for Yamaguchi’s school. We asked a couple of people for directions but no one seemed to know exactly where we needed to go. We rode around the neighborhood that everyone indicated; we didn’t find the school but we did find a random hill at a 20% grade that lasted for about 7-8 blocks, sloping down towards the main street. Of course, we decided to try it out- it was a ton of fun.
As riding around the neighborhood didn’t seem to be helping us find Yamaguchi, we finally decided just to call and ask where the school was located. Unfortunately, we were told (very politely) that they are not so keen on having visitors, which was disappointing to hear. There wasn’t anything to be done about it though so we decided that we might as well just find a spot to hang out and figure out where to camp for the night. We grabbed a couple of happy hour drinks and listened to a gaggle of ladies enjoying some Friday afternoon refreshments while we sat and talked about what the next few days were going to bring. As the sun started setting we made our way out to the edge of town in search of a soft, quiet spot to sleep for the night. It was still early enough that the parks were all off limits, but we finally found a ridge at the back of a park under a weeping willow, quiet and peaceful. I was definitely in the mood to turn in early and relax while watching the stars. We did just that, and drifted off to sleep for the night.