Upon leaving Kim’s house in Fruita, we rode 6 miles to Grand Junction to the public library in order to plan our route in Colorado. Much to our chagrin, the computers had so many firewalls to keep people from watching porn that we could not use bikemap.net, which enables us to map a bike-friendly route complete with topographical profiles. A frustrating 45 minutes later, a man walked in and asked if we are the owners of the two touring bicycles in the foyer. We said yes, and he introduced himself as John and after a few minutes of bike talk he proceeded to invite us to stay with him and his girlfriend Shelly. He offered to let us use their computers to plan our route. We decided to take him up on the offer even though we had not gone anywhere that day- after all, it is not about the destination, but the journey. We went outside, met Shelly, then realized Kelly had yet another flat from another goat head. John, who spent 10 years working at a bike shop, helped Kelly change her flat in record time before we all rode back to their house, where Shelly whipped us up a salad and veggie burgers.
Upon arriving, Mi looked down to see air quickly deflating from the front tire of their bike. It was the victim of yet another goat head. John took the bikes down to the basement and started to go to work. 4 hours later, both of our bikes were tuned up better than any shop we had taken them to before. He literally took apart our brakes, and derailures, and any component he thought needed a good cleaning, and made it shiny again. He replaced Kelly’s chain, ‘slimed’ our tires (prevents flats), and made the bikes purr like their two cats, Ivan and Katya.
From their basement, they can see 3 separate dumpsters and noticed someone was discarding perfectly good furniture. We all expressed our love for dumpster diving and relayed stories of finding barely used stuff that people throw away for one reason or another. We helped Shelly get some furniture people just threw out. We also shared stories of finding lightly used or new sporting goods at thrift stores and garage sales. Kelly mentioned her shoes were getting holes in the bottom, so Shelly went upstairs and came back with a new pair of shoes she found at a garage sale, and gave them to Kelly. They fit perfectly, so Kelly now is sporting a new pair of Adidas running shoes, which ventilate better than the old Sambas she had, keeping her feet almost stink free!
Later, we made dinner and ate while watching “Share the Road” a short documentary following a band of gypsy-like Americans who decided to cross the United States by bicycle. This documentary about the zen of bicycle touring describes how we feel on our journey. We spent the better part of the evening geeking out about bicycles and rocks (John is a geologist so naturally Mi was in heaven discussing such things as popcorn weathering, desert varnish, dinosaur-rich Morison formations and more).
The ever hospitable John and Shelly said they were going to hike in Mee Canyon the next day and invited us to stay an extra night with them so we could join. Naturally, we could not pass up the opportunity to explore with a band of knowledgeable archaeologists and geologists. So the next morning we got up early to prepare for the hike. Once we had made our lunches, filled our water bottles, and put on our new zip-off pants (also courtesy of our hosts’ seemingly endless generosity) we set out to meet up with Shelly’s coworkers Gail and Naomi and set off toward the Colorado National Monument.
The rocky dirt road up to Mee Canyon tested the vehicles’ four-wheel-drive for roughly an hour before we made it to the trailhead.
None of our companions had ever attempted this particular hike before so we didn’t know what to expect of the 2.7 mile route down to the alcove. It started smoothly, with a gentle downward slope on a two-track dirt road bordered by bushes, short trees, and grazing cattle.
Almost immediately the rocky ground began to yield geological and archaeological treasures which would have gone unnoticed if we hadn’t been accompanied by a group of people trained to uncover them.
We learned how to identify the characteristic shards of rock left over from an ancient tool-maker as well as the multidisciplinary geology we were passing through.
Continuing on, the dirt path turned from a two to a single-track lined by cryptobiological soil. Then, suddenly, we were standing on the lip of a canyon. We crept out onto a narrow ledge and followed the path as it snaked down the rock walls of the canyon.
Then, down a wooden ladder held together by fraying rope, and clambering through holes in the rock, and clinging to the sheer side as we sidestepped across inches-wide ledges.
Later, John would describe the trek as one of the dicier hikes in the area and the trailhead sign described it as “extreme.”
A few hours later we had made it to our destination and enjoyed our lunch in the shade of the alcove.
As soon as we had finished eating the once clear sky began to darken and we heard the growl of thunder in the distance so we decided to head back.
Although we had gone down some steep slopes and climbed over death-defying precipices, the trip back up was actually easier and took less time.
All in all, the hike was tremendously gratifying as it yielded some terrific views of the canyon, gave us the opportunity to spend time with some really cool people, we learned a lot (Mi even took notes), and it was quite a workout.
By then, we all decided that we had earned a beer so we headed to the Kannah Brewery. We each enjoyed a local microbrew, the 90s music, and each other’s company until the exertion of the day caught up with us, making us long for a shower and sleep.
Back at the house we discussed everything from dinosaurs, to our next day’s route (part of which would utilize a map made by John), the cats, and the Italian bike race.
The next morning we all set off on our bikes together, which was really exciting for us to be mobbing down the street as a group all decked out with panniers and bright jerseys.
About five miles later we dropped Shelly off at work and John continued with us to lead us on the safest and best way to the next town of Palisade.
Not too impressed by the selection at the local grocery store and there too early to stop at any of the businesses, we pressed on toward our next destination of Glenwood Springs.
We had been told that this is a hippie town which naturally intrigued us. We camped just outside of Rifle and then made it to Glenwood Springs yesterday morning. After exploring a bit we zeroed in on this town’s claim to fame, the therapeutic hot springs, where we spent the better part of the afternoon alternating between soaking in the hot mineral pool and the cooler lap pool.
The whole place smelled like sulphur and was crowded with busloads of school kids, but none of that mattered to our aching muscles, which were glad for the rest and to relax in the heat.
We topped the evening off with Mexican food and margaritas at the restaurant across the street from our digs, the Starlight Motel.
Naturally, Kelly spoke Spanish with all the employees who seemed delighted to converse in their native tongue with someone who appears to be just another gringa.
This morning we packed up and washed our clothes and discovered that Mi had managed to misplace a crucial piece of equipment: gloves. Fortunately one of the many bike shops in town was having a sale so replacements were found at a fraction of the cost. After spending the requisite amount of time scouring the bike shop we were starving so we made the Sacred Grounds coffee shop our next destination. We have spent the afternoon here utilizing the computer (hurray for not having to update on a smart phone!), chatting with various interested parties, and sipping smoothies. Next, we are headed to the grocery store to stock up for the next few days of riding through the wilderness.
We are about to head out of town on a bike path that parallels the I-70 for 16 miles before heading north on Colorado River Road. This route will take us to Kremmling, CO where we will be able to start using the Adventure Cycling map again.
Our next major destination is Rawlins, WY, where we will pick up a package of essential seeds and spices that Kelly’s friend T put together for us, and Kelly’s dad Brian mailed to us (Thank you!). We have never been to Wyoming, and are not sure what to expect but we are assured we will love it, despite being a little wary of spending time in bear country. But don’t worry, we have a rope to hang our food from a distant tree and our tent is free of food particles (thanks to Kelly’s insistence that Oreos are not to be consumed inside).
The sun appears to be coming out again so we are going to hit the road while the going is good. The forecast predicts a 30% chance of rain for the afternoon so we are glad to have shelled out for the waterproof bags.
As always, thanks for staying tuned, for donating to Action Against Hunger, and for sending all your good wishes. Peace!