Monday, May 11, 2009

Riding at Moab Day #1

The parking lot at Adventure Inn was buzzing with activity by 7:00 AM Monday morning as riders started congregating, preparing to get on the road for day 1 of riding these fantastic roads.
The riders starting leaving in small groups of 2 to 4 bikes but we would cross paths with many of these small groups throughout the day. Our route today would be over 300 miles on the best motorcycle roads east Utah and west Colorado have to offer: UT-46, CO-90, CO-141, the road through Colorado National Monument, and UT-128. Four of us - Greg, Rob, Claye and I - pulled out of the parking lot at around 8:40 AM and headed south on US-191 toward UT-46.

UT-46 started out relatively flat and straight but soon enough picked up a few kinks and turns as we headed east toward Colorado. The road number changes to CO-90 over the state line and began to lose altitude rapidly through a series of switch-backs. Claye and Rob rode ahead to find a pullout, where they pulled over and took photos of me and Greg as we rode by. Rob caught this photo of me, Greg and Claye (farthest back) as we came around one of the curves.

We met up with three other riders in our group and played leap-frog with them as they stopped at pullouts then raced ahead to pass us. We dropped into a green, wide valley and 20 or so miles later we met CO-141 and turned left.

This road was amazing!! it ran between high red sandstone bluffs for miles.
Soon we came up upon a moving billboard - the kind they use along highways to announce upcoming construction - and it said cattle in road. Immediately after that we started seeing huge amounts of manure in the roadway and it continued for a few miles. Then, up ahead, we saw them. A huge herd of cattle being herded by several horseback riders and many herd dogs.
Riding up to such a spectacle was surreal!! Many cows, many, many calves and a dozen or more herd dogs continued along both shoulders and up the middle of the road as we approached. It took some coaxing by Rob and Claye to start creating a path through the middle of this. As the cattle parted, I inched forward, small calves bleating at me as I pass them just inches away. As we worked our way toward the head of the herd, a giant black and white bull decided he wanted to cross the road right in front of me. He hesitated, I hesitated, he stepped forward, I slowed down even more. We had a stand-off going. But he was a whole lot bigger than me and I wasn't about to demand my right-of-way. But then he stepped back a bit and I scooted past him. In my rear view mirror I could see that the bull then decided to step on out across the roadway and Greg stopped to let him cross.

That was one of the many high points of today's ride for me. We continued toward Gateway where we'd planned to have lunch. But I didn't know how far that would be and I was in need a "comfort station." Finally, with the roadway all to myself (Claye, Rob, and Greg had pulled over to chat with another small group who had pulled over) I took advantage of that and pulled over. As I was heading toward some rocks along the roadside that would give me some privacy, Claye pulled up just about then and kept guard for me.

With the four of us back together again, we headed on toward Gateway which was, as it turned out, only 11 miles up the road, and had a nice relaxed lunch at the deli located in this oasis in the middle of nowhere. From here, the road followed along the river through a gorge, which was gorgeous. High red walls surrounded us and the road presented many S-curves as it followed the contours of these walls and the river. At one point I came around a curve and came upon a small yellow SUV stopped right in the middle of the road. I assumed they'd spotted bighorn sheep or some other large animal but was too busy bringing my motorcycle to a stop to be able to spot what they'd seen. Greg, who was behind me, said there were two bighorns standing in or near the river and that was what they were looking at.
Once we got into Grand Junction, we all gassed up and headed to Colorado National Monument park. Immediately after going through the south entrance station, the road started a rapid climb through a series of switch-backs. It took us to a plateau atop the mountain, where the road brought us past some breathtaking views to the north of large gorges and the high desert beyond. The road S-curved in and out of a series of these large gorges with occasional elevation changes until it brought us several miles later to the visitor center.
Claye positioned herself at the top of a switchback to capture these photos of me at the start of the switch back, at the next level down(zoomed in) and then Greg, who was right behind me.

There was a fabulous view off the back deck of the center. It was soon time to leave the park down another series of switch-backs to the north entrance and then a few miles up the road we were on I-70 heading west. At this point it was just me and Greg, as we left Claye and Rob behind at the visitor center.
Our final road of the day would be UT-128 which would take us south to Moab. It was flat and featureless for the first few miles but! As we neared the river, we began to see dramatic sandstone cliffs in multiple shades of deep red and maroon. A pullout presented us with a terrific photo opportunity. Note the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the background and the deep red pinnacles in front of them.

Finally back at the motel in Moab, I was tired but pleased with the ride today. We covered close to 350 miles of non-stop challenging roads!

Tomorrow: Arches National Monument and perhaps Canyonlands...

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