We woke up today with no headache...feeling pretty good, though neither of us got the sleep we really needed. Oh well. As another member here commented, I think the altitude might have been a contributor to the headaches...who knows.
We packed our bags onto the bikes, fueled up at the end of town and I downed a few V8's and some fruit juice. It was relatively cool, so I threw on a sweatshirt I had bought in town the night before. It came in handy, but I knew it would be hot in a few hours. We headed out of Silverton, Co the wrong way...oops...and after 15 minutes we got turned around and headed towards Ophir Pass. The trail picks up just several minutes out of Silverton...so before we knew it we were heading uphill. Loose and in some cases, large gravel, lined the trail. It was a flat grey in color and seemed out of the ordinary, given the beautiful green of the forests and the shades of brown and tan that painted the mountains around us. After downing all that juice, it wasnt long before I needed a break...and Jim couldnt resist taking a scenic pic of me relieving myself!? Really??!
It was a pretty chill ride up to Ophir Pass. We had 8 or 9 Jeeps pass us on their way down...packed with wide eyed tourists that had just made a rather steep ascent up the pass from the other side. I imagine not being in control of the vehicle added to their anxiety! Haha. We crested Ophir Pass and took a break. There was no sign at the top, but you certainly knew you were there. The view west was fantastic! You could see the road/trail descend steeply down and into a very large valley surrounded by adjacent mountains.
We started down and I was almost immediately surprised by the steepness of the grade. Alot of loose gravel, so this might have added to the effect. After a steep descent into the woods we rode the ridge into the very small town of Ophir. It was an interesting little town, with speed bumps literally on dirt roads!? We kept our speed very low, as it seemed this was a sensitive issue with the residents of Ophir. (which I can understand)
We rode thru town and came to our next “left turn” which would put us onto some pavement for a few miles. We smell tar and asphalt...and we soon realize that there is an entire paving crew...huge paver machines and all...making their way west on the road we would need to take. We ask the guy flagging if we can make our way onto the road and head west, and he tells us, “No, we have a traffic escort with a line of cars coming e/b that needs to come thru first”. He adds “once the paver machine gets to this point, it will be a few hours before you can even enter the road from here....it has to dry”. We look e/b and the paving machine is literally 20 yards away....creeping forward. We cannot believe we might have to re-route because of this. A few minutes later, and I am not excaggerating...the escort car comes by and the traffic moves past us as the paving machine is literally 5 feet east of us. The flagger gives us, and 4 other cars behind us, the go ahead and we speed up the road/hill just as they close traffic down at the intersection. Whew...!
We take the soon to be paved road west for just a few miles until we see our turnoff, and we are back on the dirt. This section would take us thru an interesting off road section that was as close to single track as we would see. Twisty, bumpy, lots of standing mud holes and cows scattered throughout. As we rounded a few corners, I am not sure who was more surprised, the cows or us!? I will edit this and post the name of this area, as I cant remember it now for the life of me!?
We made our way west, steadily gaining on Utah. A few hours later we found ourselves slowly descending from an average of about 8,500-9,500 feet to around 5,000-6,000 feet elevation. We felt the temperature rise and enjoyed a bit more power from our bikes!! We also watched as the terrain went from the mountains we were used to, to a high desert terrain as we dropped out of the Rockies. As we entered …............ CO, we found a small, self serve car wash so we sprayed down our bikes, getting rid of the dried mud that had accumulated over the past couple days. We did the usual pit stop...fueled the bikes, checked the oil level, and I sucked down 3 V8 Fusions and filled up my water bladder as did Jim. Not a lot of photos today. We seemed to have been more focused on the riding/getting to Utah, than taking in the views etc.
This is something that bears some consideration. I think 120 miles per day would offer a better chance to “look around”, and “explore” some things vs the 200 mile per day goal we set. (and is recommended) We had a time limit of 10 days, and we had to keep this in mind as a practical matter. It is something worth considering should you plan a trip like this. Re-routes and errors in navigating the Roll Maps etc., can easily chew up an hour or two per day in some cases. Again, I digress...
We rode miles of dirt roads thru eastern Colorado as we made our way toward Utah. Pretty easy to make good time on these roads, but they were NOT very well marked and even our GPS wasnt cooperating. In hindsight, it is often better to just go in the “general direction” of the TAT directions, vs following them to a “T”. You wont miss anything by using a path ½ mile down the road to get to the next turn etc. In contrast, the dirt roads were unusually well marked in Utah!?
As we travelled down one of the many tan colored dirt roads....standing up off our seats to give our butts a rest...we found ourselves in Utah. (According to the Maps) No sign, no notice...no welcome. We had made it to Utah, and while the change in scenery and terrain had been gradual, there was no mistaking it for Utah. The almost burnt orange color of the mountains in the distance, the change in the texture of the dirt and the significant rise in temperature, (near 100 degrees) all told us we had arrived.
We stopped in the town of Monticello, completed our requisite pit stop and walked out of the air conditioned convenience store only to have the 100 degree heat smack us in the face and remind us it was still HOT OUTSIDE! We headed out toward Moab, Utah. We re-routed a bit to save some time, taking the pavement (Hwy 191) for about an hour to ensure we would get to Moab before sunset.
After almost 240 miles on the day, we turned onto the main drag and entered Moab, UT.
It had been a long day and Arches National Park was just up the road. The sun would be setting in about 40 minutes....we were tired. We stopped and got a motel room. We then walked out, got back on the bikes and rolled the throttle on as we headed to Arches National Park. We got there 30 minutes before sunset, but if we could take in even a bit of Arches tonight, we could ride a bit of Moab and not have to go back to Arches before we headed west.
We rolled up to the entrance and got ready to pay the entrance fee. No ranger there...all closed up with a sign that said “Open”! We win! We cruised into the park and enjoyed a very relaxing drive thru much of the park. As we sat in front of a “Balanced Rock” with the worst, overcast lighting for taking pics of this beautiful sight....the clouds moved away for a few minutes...just long enough for us to see and capture the beautiful colors of the massive stone strucures! Wow! e continued on thru the park and we were able to snap a few photos of the sun setting behind “Balanced Rock”...and a massive Arch called "The North Window"! ...Until the the sun completely dissapeared. We then enjoyed a leisurely and cool (as in temperature and view) ride back out of the park at twilight. It was an amazing 90 minutes of riding and scenic views.
Upon returning to the motel, we dumped our dusty gear, washed up a bit and headed to a Mexican Restaurant. I cant tell you how good the chips and salsa (and in Jim's case...the cold bottle of beer) tasted! We enjoyed a very good meal and returned to our room. We then did the nightly planning of the next days ride/reviewed the maps etc. We decided we would play in Moab for a bit before getting a late start...I mean..we are in Moab for crying out loud!!
I sent the nightly text update to those that wanted us to keep them in the loop on our adventure, and hit the sack. We had covered 260 miles for the day, 200 of that was on dirt. of that was dirt.
More to come.