While in the Hotel in Blanding we got online to check the weather forecast and things were starting to get weird. An approaching cold front was going to push the already high winds up to 55 mph gusts and the high terrain in Colorado was under a threat of overnight snow. The forecast for Monday was cold and overcast for Colorado with a chance of rain/snow depending on location. Planning ahead we reserved a room at the Iron Horse in Durango so we wouldn't have to camp in the weather. Still the wind was a concern.
Fortunately the winds were forecast to be coming from the south west and we would be going mostly east. We crossed our fingers that the parts where we were going south wouldn't be too bad.
We had a hot breakfast at the Old Timers in Blanding, stopped for gas, and then were rolling out of town by 8. We headed north up US 191 towards Monticello then turned right onto Montezuma Creek road. I had placed this road on the route blindly knowing nothing about it and it turned out to be one of the coolest roads on the route. The road descends into Montezuma Canyon and then follows the creek south through an amazing sandstone canyon.
A modern interpretation of the cliff dwelling:
For the most part the Canyon walls shielded us from the worst of the wind but every once in a while we would come around a bend in the canyon and highly focused wind would try to tear us off the bikes.
We turned off of Montezuma Creek Rd and onto Black Steer Canyon rd to head towards Hovenweep National Monument.
We hit pavement on Hovenweep road and headed over to Hovenweep National Monument. Hovenweep is a series of ancient masonry construction sites from the same culture as the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. At Hovenweep the structures are built on top of the cliffs along canyon walls (with the exception of the Cutthroat Castle group).
Pics of the Square Tower group:
While the Square Tower Group is accessible from the main visitor center to see the other sites you have to travel north on Hovenweep road and then turn off onto dirt roads. The road to the Hackberry and Holly groups is pretty good except for the dead end right at the Holly group which is fairly rocky.
The Holly Group:
The Cutthroat Castle group is even further north up the Hovenweep road from the turn off for the Hackberry/Holly group. The Cutthroat Castle road also had the ominous note that only high clearance vehicles were recommended past a certain point. After some easy dirt road we reached the "high" trail head for Cutthroat, ahead we could see a rocky one lane descent curving off to the left. Lori wasn't sure about continuing but I was certain that I didn't want to hike from high trail head, in gear, in high 70s to mid 80s temps.
After a short discussion we continued down the road which was moderately steep, narrow, and rock covered. It switched back and forth and up and down eventually stopping at a circle just above the Cutthroat Castle group.
Riding back out the Cutthroat Castle road:
We would follow the main road north around the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. While riding east on County road BB we could see road signs twisting and dancing in the wind that was currently at our backs. This did not bode well for in a few minutes we would join up with US 491 to head south to Cortez.
Sure enough as soon as we turned we hit the worst of the wind. The road went south east the wind came from the south west, putting it in our face but at an angle. Strait line winds were above 40 mph and gusts as high as 55 mph. We abandoned our usual stagger formation so that each of us could ride in the center of the lane. We needed all of the room we could get as the winds were quite treacherous.
Leaning into the wind and on the throttle to stay close to the 65 mph speed limit we would periodically ride into the shadow of buildings or places where the road cut through a small hill. In these spots the wind would stop or reverse throwing you across the lane only to hit you hard from the original direction seconds later.
We stopped in Cortez for lunch and a break from the wind. Then we headed east to Durango by way of US 160. The wind was mostly at our backs again and we could enjoy this section of road as it twisted through the hills. Durango was a nuthouse when we arrived as a massive annual bicycle race was underway. We altered our plans to ride through the historic district and headed straight to the hotel. Dinner would be at Sweeny's directly across US 550 from our hotel. Dinner was fabulous! I'm a huge fan of chicken parmigiana but I rarely order it on account of the fact that many restaurants phone it in by using frozen breaded chicken breasts which are almost always dry and rubbery. The dish as prepared by Sweeny's chef was everything a chicken parm should be; moist, tender with a crispy crust and balanced with cheeses, sauce and pasta. Mmmmmmm.