Arches, Red Sand and Tumbleweed


27-29 July, 923 Miles

We weren’t aiming to get to Dan and Vicky’s until around 17:00 so planned a detour to the Rocky Mountain National Park that had been recommended by Brenda.

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The first part of Colorado was not at all as I imagined, it was more prairie and seemed to go on forever. We were riding along a very straight, flat, road and the only breaks in the view were the occasional roads at right-angles. These, too, went as far as the eye could see in a straight line. For someone born in the UK it’s very strange to be able to see miles and miles to the horizon along a straight road.

We broke our fast around lunchtime in Stirling at a lovely restaurant called the Village Inn (we saw another of these much later in our journey so we assume it’s a chain). It was clearly a very popular place as it was packed and people were coming in all the time. The temperature was climbing a bit so we took the opportunity to divest ourselves of our long-sleeved garments.

The countryside started to change, we saw mountains on the horizon and the roads became more interesting. Our plan was to ride through the park then grab a park stamp at the Lily Lake visitor centre.

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Upon arriving at the visitor centre we could see that not only was it closed but the grass growing through the steps indicated it had been closed for a while. That’s a shame as the building looked interesting and the view from it must have been lovely. Never mind, there was another visitor centre close by in Beaver Meadows which we eventually found and got the requisite stamp.

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Lily Lake

We didn’t see a lot of the park as the clock was driving us (as usual) but what we did see didn’t disappoint so thanks to Brenda for suggesting it. There was quite a bit of traffic and those pesky double yellow lines kept us behind too many cars but we did make progress when we could.

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b130806 130727 008We passed through the conurbation of Boulder and Denver with no issues and finally saw the eponymous castle rock near Dan and Vicky’s house.

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The rock does look like a castle from this direction but as you approach and go round it looks just like any other large lump of rock. On the top is a large, rather incongruous, metal star. Apparently this gets lit up for high days and holidays and they leave it up all the time rather than take it down when it’s not needed. It doesn’t add anything to the view.

We arrived at Dan and Vicky’s where we were made very welcome. Dan had been following our Spot track and was waiting on the drive to wave us in. Prior to the rally he had been a great help sorting out a Zumo 665 together with a subscription to the weather, traffic and XM radio options for us and we had promised to treat them to a meal to say “Thank You”. We were only planning to stay one night as they were off to see the Cirque du Soleil the following afternoon but they were quite happy for us to stay longer and we were grateful to do so. It gave us a chance to catch up on a couple of the blog entries, do some much-needed laundry, pick Dan’s brains (again) on the National Parks Ride and check the route for our journey back to California.

Kevin made full use of Dan’s immaculate garage facilities and gave the bike a well-deserved wash as it was pretty disgusting. The hot water hose, complete with Harley Davidson (of course!) spray attachment, made short work of the insects and grime.

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So there was a bike under the muck after all!

Even though we’d only met Dan a few weeks ago at the start of the Iron Butt Rally and Vicky the previous day we were sad to leave. It was like they were old friends but we had places to see so we rode out on a clean bike with Dan’s advice on the roads ringing in our ears. Thanks Dan and Vicky, we really enjoyed our stay.

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Dan and Vicky with their beautiful view

Dan had recommended taking the I70 West from Denver and he wasn’t wrong. It was a wonderful road (for an Interstate) with long sweeping bends (or curves as they call them here) and many changes in altitude. We often found ourselves on a huge down incline with bends that just went on for ever. Definitely recommended.

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We left Colorado and headed for Utah where we would spend the next few days visiting many of the famous national parks and other sites.

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The Colorado river looks more like cocoa than water.

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At first I thought these were piles of aggregate left by roadworkers but they are rocks.

Our first stop of the day was at the Colorado National Monument where we approached the visitor centre via a lovely twisting mountain road from which the scenery was breathtaking. We parked half-way up at a viewpoint so we could stop and appreciate the view. Having got the park’s leaflet we realised we had actually passed another entrance about 20 miles before which would have brought us all the way through the park; it was disappointing as we ended up retracing our steps (not too sadly as it was back down that lovely road) to get back to the main road.

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Good job I don’t get vertigo

Our goal for the day was to reach Arches National Park. There was a direct road but both Dan and a ranger at the the Colorado National Monument recommended highway 128 which would take us through a canyon. We didn’t need to discuss which way to go.

As we headed towards the mountains on highway 128 thunder, lightning, heavy rain and gusts of wind that seemed to hit us from every direction and blew us all over the road made it all a bit exciting. The 665 was displaying ‘flash flood’ warnings and tumbleweed was blowing across the road. The storm passed through reasonably quickly but did leave a lot of red sand washed across the road in numerous places. Where it was thick it wasn’t nice to ride over but the scenery more than made up for it.

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We arrived at Arches National Park late afternoon as the sun was decidedly on its last legs. That had two advantages – one that it was not very busy and the other that the sun’s rays brushed the rocks with some beautiful light creating interesting shadows.

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The dry atmosphere leaves a lot of dried up dead trees in the landscape

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The rock on the right is called Balanced Rock. It does look a bit precarious.

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We decided not to stop in Moab as it looked a bit like Blackpool (not that we’ve anything against Blackpool, we just didn’t fancy staying there) and found ourselves riding into the night for another 75 miles or so to a Super 8 in Blanding. At a petrol stop some 15 miles short of our destination a lady came up to me and asked which way we were going. When I told her she said “Please be really careful. There are so many deer on that stretch of road that we always worry when we see a motorcycle going down there”. Sure enough, shortly after leaving the petrol station we were met with a large neon sign flashing ‘149 deer strikes, don’t be 150’ and more deer warning signs than we’ve ever seen on such a short stretch of road.

We rode slowly waiting for something to overtake that we could follow and very shortly a large pick-up passed us which Kevin tucked in behind. We were lucky and didn’t see any deer.

Not quite an early night but we slept well.

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