Ride West: Day 11 to Torrey, Utah
Just finished several beers, including an interesting local brew labeled “Polygamy Porter,” and enjoyed a 30-minute soak in the hot tub at the hotel where we’re staying on the edge of Capitol Reef National Park. Pretty damn good way to end a day that included some spectacular riding.
(I know that first paragraph is killing my riding friends, but everyone had a standing offer to come ride with me.)
We got another 7 a.m. start, which is always a good time to start riding. You have to be more vigilant regarding forest creatures and cows on the open range (i.e. no fences along the road) but morning air is always crisp and your senses are as fresh as they’re going to get. We headed south out of Rangely. Like yesterday, I expected to be on s0-so roads, and like yesterday I was pleasantly surprised as we rode through interesting terrain, including some ups and downs and tight corners over a mountain pass that produced the first of the day’s several floor-board scraping leans. At one point, on the downhill side of the pass, we stopped at a pullout to survey the panorama spread below and in front of us. Several hundred yards below in an open area on the side of the mountain, a doe warily crossed the meadow, grazing here and there and then finally, with several bounding leaps, disappeared into a draw and some scrub pine. It was a nice off-bike interlude.
Outside Grand Junction, Colorado, the Colorado National Monument rises majestically 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, punctuated by a dozen steep-faced canyons that cut into the face of the multi-hued monolith. Fortunately for me and everyone else who visits there, a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps project built a road that winds along the edge of the canyons, producing awesome views and even better motorcycle riding.
This 25-mile biker’s dream is undoubtedly one of the great roads of my riding career. Jon and I liked it so much, in fact, that we turned around at the eastern terminus and retraced our route back to the western entry point. Including stops at view points and the visitors center, we spent almost 2 1/2 hours on Rimrock Road raving at the 75-mile views and reveling in the hundreds of twists in a road unprotected by guard rails and mere feet from a 500-foot fall to a canyon floor below. Coming around a turn with floor boards grinding and seeing nothing–I mean nothing–in front of you but air and the far side of the canyon 1000 yards away adds a dash of excitement to one’s retirement.
With our appetite for twisties sated for the time being, we headed west on I-70 in the afternoon with temperatures once again soaring into three digits. The highway ride and the first 50 miles off the highway were the low-points of today’s addition to the odometer of joy, but once we headed toward and into Capitol Reef National Park the road and the scenery improved dramatically.
Capitol Reef National Park is one of the newest National Parks in the system and has a rich cultural and geologic past. Jon and I took in both when we stopped to see petroglyphs carved by the pre-Columbian Fremont Peoples sometime between 700 and 1300 AD. The carvings were made on towering red rock walls that line the canyon.
Throughout today’s ride, Jon and I were continually amazed at the stark beauty of the Colorado and Utah wind-and-water sculpted landscape. We had been impressed with the 150 million-year old dinosaur fossils yesterday, but then came to realize the rocks we were seeing around us were formed around 1.5 BILLION years ago. Living mostly in cities, people today have nearly lost the ability to think in terms of a history that goes back more than a century or two. The history of much of the visible Rocky Mountain region of the United States is written with numbers that are hard to fathom. One of these days I’m going to plan a trip out west in the company of a Harley-riding geologist and archaelogist and really learn what’s out here besides awesome scenery and great roads.
Tomorrow: More of the same? Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park