Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day Nine--South Fork, CO to Bluff, UT

Whoa. We had the most INSANE day, full of contrasts and extremes, rife with conflict and terror… okay, terror might be overplaying it just a tad. But it was one of the wildest days I can remember having—and worth every minute.

It started innocent enough. The bed and breakfast served a great three-course breakfast: Fruit with fresh baked poppy-seed muffins, Quiche Lorraine, and an Apple Dumpling for desert. Desert at breakfast! How cool is that???

We hit the road to beautiful blue skies and ideal weather, nature luring us into her net. The ride through the Colorado Rockies had everything you’d expect, pine trees, log cabins, dead skunks… truly spectacular. I saw herds of cattle, herds of horses, and in Cortez, a herd of wild Goths, complete with tutus and skull shirts. As we continued our climb, the sky broke open, and it rained—not too much, enough to be fun, not enough to be a pain in the butt. And when you hit the sunny part of the road once again... Ahhhh... you appreciate it so much more.

Once we passed Mesa Verde, things changed dramatically. Gone were the lush agricultural fields and frolicking colts...

...replaced with the barren, brown landscape of the high desert.

Oh, but more wild changes were in store.

First, we had yet another traffic stop for construction. I actually like these, because it gives me a chance to get off the bike and take some pictures. Generally, if we’re going 65-75 mph, I don’t shoot while I ride. Only on the slow roads (okay, mom? See?)

Look at that sky, will ya?! Perfect blue, with puffy white. Just what you want to see, right?

Ha! What false bait that was!

I first noticed it on the distant horizon, a spectacular contrast of light. The hot sun made the brown scrub of the desert glow golden, while up ahead, the darkest cloud I’d ever seen blacked out the sky. I wanted to stop and shoot it, but heck, if I stopped to shoot everything that moved me, I’d never get anywhere.

The closer we got, the darker the sky became. Considering it had been blazing hot for the last hour or so, I couldn’t wait to get in the rain and cool down.

But it didn't come... yet.

Even with the impending storm, we pulled off as planned at the Four-Corners monument to grab some shots—a quick side trip, since we both knew the sky would open up at any minute. I pulled off to an overlook so we could get some cool shots...

...then we rushed over to the monument to do the classic, “Look, mom! I’m in four states” shot.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

It began with a couple of raindrops. Then the wind kicked in, which stirred up the dirt, creating a wild dust storm. When the sky opened up, it turned the dust to mud, flying at 50 mph through the wind. We took cover.

Oh… but it gets worse. Wait, first take a look at this video so you get an idea of the storm’s intensity:

I remembered I hadn’t secured my gloves because I thought we’d only be there a minute, so I walked back over to the bikes. When you see me running, that’s not to escape the rain, it’s because the wind pushed me. Hard.

And then… IT STARTED TO HAIL. I’m not kidding you.

One of the nice vendors let us take cover until the worst of it passed. The second it started to ease, we took off. For probably fifty miles, we rode in the rain. Remember how excited I was about the lightning on Day One? Well that was cute lightning. The lightning flashing overhead today was evil, chasing us down the road, flashes so bright, my chrome tank lit up. Insane.

Oh, but that’s not all.

We went to our planned gas stop. The gas station was closed. So there we were, in the middle of the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, in the rain, with bikes that can go only 120 miles or so, and we had about 60 miles or so already on our tanks. “No worries,” says my feller, “there’s another small town down the road.” Yeah. Well, the gas station in Red Mesa? Closed due to a power outage.

I asked, “Are we screwed?”

Feller said, “Nah.”

So we continued toward our destination, Bluff, Utah. My odometer read 98. The mileage marker for Bluff? 30. Ummm… I’m no math whiz, but that adds up to 128, right?


Thankfully, we’d been getting great gas mileage. The good news? We made it to Bluff.

The bad news? Power outage there, too. No gas. But hey! No worries. We planned to stay in Bluff anyway. Fortunately, the steakhouse down the road cooks on an outside grill, so they were still serving food—which was a good thing, considering we skipped lunch. The food was great, the hospitality outstanding. The Desert Rose Inn is charming, the views spectacular.

The company, stellar. Life is good.

Growing up, I never saw myself as particularly adventurous, but I think I may have changed my mind today, ‘cause I had a ridiculous amount of fun. The more the weather turned to chaos, the more I laughed in my helmet. I swear, you just can’t pay for entertainment as spectacular as Mother Nature. Wind storm. Dust storm. Mud storm. Hail. Lightning. Thunder. And oh! Did I mention the flying tumbleweeds aiming for us as we whizzed down the highway? My feller hit one, and it exploded. So cool!

To see some of the cool people we met on the road today, check out my feller's site, www.socal67.com.

I reckon it’s time to get myself off this swinging bench, away from the sunset view of the red bluffs, and wash the road grime away. Until tomorrow…

Later gators.

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