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Diary 12

8 Sep.

I made a conscious effort to be more of a tourist today.

Yesterday, at the top of Monarch Pass I could have taken a cable car to the top of the mountain to see the view.
20 minutes & $7.
A tourist would do that.
I didn't.

Today I took loads of photos, I stopped at all the Historical Markers and stopped at all the view points (unless there was gravel involved).

11,000 ft passes yesterday.
Nothing - went over Independence pass - 12,000ft.
At the top I walked up to the peak.
Hiking to the peak at 12,000ft. takes your breath away - and the view is quite good too.

Fall is definitely here. The aspens are starting to turn.
Dying leaves can be so beautiful.

There are two roads into Aspen.
The one from the east is one of the twistiest and highest roads I've been on in the US.
The one from the west is a multi-lane divided highway.
Guess the folks who own the huge houses there might need to go places in winter.

Went through Woody Creek (where HST lived).
Not really a town, just a vague collection of houses.

Colorado is full of great roads, great views.

There were a few drops of rain as I approached Montrose, my overnight stop.
While I was in the Motel office (having eaten) the heavens opened.
I got damp between the office & my room.
Lucky timing.

Looking at the weather - I'm in the middle of some nasty stuff.
Do I ride out the weather or get the hell out of Dodge.

Decisions decisions.

9 Sep.

Backtracked this morning for 10 miles to check out the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
I didn't stop in yesterday as the weather was looking a bit grim.

On the way up into the canyon I suddenly realised that yesterday I blew through Crawford without stopping.
Crawford is where Joe Cocker's Mad Dog ranch is, and they have a general store where Joe will hang out if he's not on tour.
As I was cursing my stupidity a squirrel ran across the road in front of me.
I braked - so did the squirrel. He stopped right in front of me, about a foot away.
I guess he had learned that if there is a vehicle then if you stop in front of it the wheels go either side.
Unfortunately that doesn't work with a bike.
There wasn't much of a 'bump' but equally there wasn't much I could do about it.
My first road kill this trip.

Stopped at a few of the overlooks at the canyon - damn are they deep - before the clouds started to roll in and take the views away.
On the way back out I was in clouds most of the way.
20 m.p.h. with 40 ft. visibility.
The squirrel was on the road on the way out.
Definitely dead.
(No - I didn't stop to take a photo - what kind of sicko do you take me for. Anyway with that visibility it wasn't safe to stop)

Riding through the clouds doesn't get you real wet.
Riding through the rain storm on the way back into Montrose was a different matter.

Huge black clouds rolling in from the south.
That was the way I was going to head. Down the 'Million Dollar Highway' to Durango.
With that much rain & the clouds so low then the views will be negligible so I went south a few miles & headed west.

Near Telluride I couldn't see much of the sky so was taken by surprise when the heavens opened.
At the time I was in a group of vehicles going through single lane construction so it was impossible to stop.
I've never ridden in rain like that.
I was drenched in seconds.
Wiping my visor was helpful for about half a second.
I couldn't see the road, or anything else - except the tail lights of the car in front.
I followed that car through the construction an the rest of the storm.
That was real scary. I don't think I was on gravel but I couldn't swear to it.

That was about 11am. By 12:30 I was dry.

Back into Utah at Montocello.
I thought about stopping there but it was only 2:30, a little early to stop so headed south to Blanding.
There's construction on that stretch.
Before I got to that I stopped & put on the waterproofs.
Waiting at the construction queue the rain started.
Going through the construction, at the top of the hill there was a lightening strike that floodlit everything and less than half a second later, the detonation of the thunder.
The noise almost knocked me off the bike.

I stopped at Blanding - in a motel that Nick & I will use on our trip.
30 minutes later a huge storm came through and now the sun is shining.

One downside of the storm is that here the DSL goes through the power cables - and with the storm it's down.

10 Sep.

Didn't sleep well last night - no real reason.
The thunder was bouncing around till 3 am. but it wasn't that that kept me awake.

Fell in with a real nice couple last night who are heading for Yellowstone on a BMW (and damnit if I haven't already lost their e-mail address). Anyway - after talking to them I yet again changed my route plan & decided to head for some nice roads in eastern Arizona.

This morning, however I went back to 'Plan A'.
The Arizona route would have been 4 longish days on good roads.
Yes that is appealing - and two months ago I would have done those roads - but I'm being tourist - and I'm a little tired of this so - Rode down through Monument Valley (I'd forgotten how stunning that whole area is) then over to Page for the night.

One good thing about being back in the desert is the lack of bugs.
It's surprising how quickly the helmet visor can be coated in goo, but here there are very few bugs.
Just south of Kayenta I came across a swarm.
I've no idea what they were, but there was a black cloud of beasties across the road.
I ducked to try & get as few of them as possible on the visor and after the machine gun noise had stopped I realised that by ducking I had exposed the back if my neck & made a gap between the collar of my leathers and my flesh.
Emergency stop and remove & shake out the jacket.

One other bug got me.
It bit my neck at 80 m.p.h.
Either it's sting was what I ran into or it was a real mean bug.

After last nights rain the desert has changed.
The rivers run red with silt and the road is regularly covered with red sand.

Not many photos today as I'll be covering this ground with Nick & he'll want to stop for photos - so I'll get them then.

11 Sep.

It was hot in Page by 7am.
Back into the mesh jacket.

I'm feeling a little rough. My diet probably isn't as good as it might be and my stomach is a little dodgy.

Headed south to pick up the road to the northern rim of Grand Canyon.

Crossing the upper reaches of the canyon near Lees Ferry was a little strange.
You can't actually see the canyon until you're on it.
It looks like a featureless scrub desert, then there is this big slash, or as a duck once put it "The world biggest, most convoluted rut!".

It might have been warm in Page but by 9,000ft odd, but the canyon edge it was a little chilly.

Stopping for gas on the approach to the park I felt a little odd.
The gas station was busy but I was the only person not in camo gear.
Looks like hunting season has kicked in.

In the diner at the north rim I felt a little odd as I was the only person under 70.
Looks like 'grey tour' season has kicked in.

At one of the viewpoints a British couple who are touring in a hire car stopped to talk to me.
He has an R1, she has an R6 (these are motorbikes) and when they saw the licence plate they were full of questions.
Just as they left an old guy wandered over.
His opening remark was "A couple of days ago when we spoke I meant to ask you how long will you be in the US".
Travelling round the tourist areas I forgot that I will bump into folks repeatedly.

Heading from the Canyon towards Kanab you get a wonderful view of "Grand Escalate".
A series of cliffs ("a series of differently coloured uplifted sandstone cliffs stretching in order of increasing age between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon").
In the parking lot a Scot wandered over for a chat.

In Kanab for two nights.
Taking a day off tomorrow to sleep, eat & read.

12 Sep.

Day off.

Slept late.

Went about 15 miles out of town to have a look at the ruins of the set where 'Gunsmoke' was filmed.
It's on private land so you can only view it from the road.
Still it's in not bad shape for a show that finished 50 years ago.

Drank coffee & read.

A real quiet day.

13 Sep.

Gentle run through Zion National Park to St George then south on I-15 to Vegas.

I'd forgotten how featureless and bland the Nevada scenery is.
And hot - don't forget hot.

Straight to the Tropicana and after a 20 minute queue for check in, changed and hit the casinos.
I wasn't really intending to gamble, but I got sucked in.
Changed $60 into chips, and after an hour changed $125 back to cash.

Got chatting to an old guy at a craps table & the two of us talked and drank for a couple of hours.

14 Sep.

Nick flies in this evening so I intend to post this diary this evening.
My references say that the airport here has free wireless so I'll tape the laptop when I go there.

Got some shopping to do.

Walked miles.
Damn it's hot here.

Next diary will the 'travels with Nick'

Diary 14