Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

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Rocky Mountain High

It was warm in Cortez this morning when I woke up and loaded up.  I wore just a t-shirt and my Carhart pants, and left the leather in the bags.  Rolling east on US-160 it was sunny and nice and I could see the Rockies rising up in front of me, the air was fresh, and the road quiet.  I headed for Durango at the foot of the Animas canyon, and where the old Rio Grande narrow gauge railway to Silverton takes off.  This is also the furthest point away from Seattle I'll be on the trip, so when I turned up US-550 I was headed home, though it doesn't feel like it yet.  I intended to go up US-550 all the way to Grand Junction, going past the old mining towns of Silverton and Ouray.  It was, to say the least, a spectacular ride, and I reached elevations of over 11,000 feet.  The t-shirt was fine though, as it was sunny, but still lots of snow.

Going down the other side I couldn't help but hear C.W. McCall's song "Wolf Creek Pass" in my head, where he described the curves on the road as looking like a can full of worms or a malaria germ.  It took me a good 3 hours to go the 100 miles between Durango and Montrose.   Midway was Silverton, an old mining town where I stopped for a drink and a snack and to get off the bike for a bit. 

Once I got down off the mountain it became rather hot again -- so the ride from Montrose to Grand Junction was HOT, and windy and miserable.  I stopped at a McDonalds to cool off and rest in Clifton, before I jumped on I-70 for a few miles to Rifle, Colorado.   Here I picked up CO-13 for the 90 miles to Craig.  I could see the typical afternoon thunderstorm building and tried to outrace it.  It was a fun race too, and I only got a few drops, but the smell of the rain coming in, the dark clouds, and the empty land were magical.  The Yampa valley is quite pretty, and I saw lots of deer and smelled even more dead ones. 

I rolled into Craig, some 376 miles from Cortez.  A short day on the bike by the standards of miles -- but in hours, just as long.  The first two nice motels I tried were booked, but I found a Super 8 that is barely tolerable, and only $39 for the night.  I ran over to the Subway sandwich shop, passed three deer (glad I was off the highway on the bike), came home and showered off the road grime.  I'll likely get up early tomorrow and hit the road, I'm anxious to get home, and still have at least three days of riding to get there.  No route planned yet, that will come later tonite.

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