On Sunday, after a day off in Telluride, we leave for a long ride to Grand Junction. Morning temperatures in these mountains are very often in the low 40′s. Telluride this morning is 35 degrees. It will warm up soon I hope. We head down the canyon to Placerville and then turn left climbing up to a high plateau. It is flat and treeless. You see the mountains off in the distance on both sides of the road. Thick green grasses wave with the wind. A few cows and horses are enjoying the summer bounty. This would be a very cold place in winter. At a rare pond we count 30 new Canadian Geese crossing the road. After about 50 miles, we enter rocks as the San Miguel River comes up to the side of the road. Soon we are twisting along the river up and down as we cut through the canyon with the cliffs hundreds of feet overhead. We stop at the Hanging Flume site to take photos. A mining company had built a miles long wooden flume suspended along the side of the river canyon which delivered 246,000 gallons of water per day to their placer mining site. Some of it still clings to the side of the canyon. The mine, by the way, was not a success. We discover that the mosquitos have found us so, its back on the bike quickly. Another 44 winding miles leads us to the eastern edge of Grand Junction which is a pleasant community that has worked hard to revitalize its downtown with attractive sculptures and flowering gardens. Restaurants are very busy on a Sunday evening. The Italian one that we picked out not far from the hotel had no space available. Although we are disappointed, we have several other second choices available. We choose a wonderful little french restaurant which we enjoyed. It was nice to see an old downtown making such a successful come back.
Monday will be a long riding day so we get an early start. We have decided to add on a 23 mile side excursion to the trip so that we can visit the Colorado National Monument Park. It is brisk when we start out. The park is just south west of Grand Junction. The road climbs rapidly through numerous switchbacks over colorful rocky terrain. Soon we see expansive views of the valley below where Grand Junction lies. We make a couple of interesting stops along the road to read about the history of the rock formations that we are seeing. Some of the formations are 1.6 billion years old. We also learn about the local flora. After traversing the Park, we head east on I-70 for 30 miles and then exit at Mesa for a long climb in windy conditions. Soon we are traveling higher with snow on either side of the road. The temperature has dropped from the mid 80′s to the 50′s. I am freezing of course. We stop at a ski lodge for lunch. Nothing special, just warmth. As we go down the other side of the mountain, we can see out over Orchard City and Delta. We also see the declining weather. We still have miles to go! In Montrose we turn east again on Hwy. 50 toward Gunnison our stop for the night. This is a nice rolling hills type of terrain with lots of creosote bushes with only a few trees and some small farms. At Sapineto I ask James if he wants to keep going on as I spy a Hampton Inn along the road. Of course he wants to keep going. We soldier on with my behind is killing me! Five hours is its max for sitting on the bike. The last 27 miles are more rolling hills and if I keep my mind on the landscape it won’t seem long until we are there. No such luck. We hit not one but two long road construction delays. The last few miles into Gunnison are along the Blue Mesa Reservoir which is quite large. Elk warnings again, but no Elk. Finally we arrive at our hotel for the evening and not a moment too soon. Gunnison has a cute downtown. Each store front has old fashioned signage. We are told that winter temperatures here get down to -40. No thank you.