Sunday, July 17, 2011

Update July 13 - Jackson WY to Montrose, CO

I got up early and said goodbye to those that got up with me and got on the road about 7 am. It was a cool 49 degrees out and looked pretty foggy out but it was a low cloud layer but with good ground visibility.
My route for the day - Jackson, WY down to Montrose, CO - 510 miles!

It was a nice ride through the mountains south for a while then it turned fairly flat and straight. I knew it would be a long dull run down into Colorado.

I rode for more than an hour and decided to get breakfast in Pinedale about 80 miles south. If you want a good breakfast always look for where all the local pickup trucks are parked.

From Pinedale south it was dull and uneventful. I got down to Rock Springs, WY which is on I-70 and took a break. It was warming up so for the first time in several weeks I changed out of my jeans and put shorts on. I still wore my waterproof riding pants and 3/4 length rainproof jacket which were warmer but if I got into rain I wouldn't have to stop.

South of Rock Springs I took hwy 191 south. This was open brushy terrain like a plain. It wasn't until I saw a sign for a summit that I realized this plain was riding along at 7 to 8,000 feet. I saw a number of deer but none close. Lots of little chipmunks or some kind of small squirrels running across the road in front of me.

My next stop was at the Flaming Gorge Dam and Recreation Area. It looked pretty cool and I wanted some pictures but while I was getting a drink and some snacks I could see an organized tour was leaving the visitor building to walk across a catwalk to see the lower side of the dam (VERY high). While that would have been fun to see I just didn't want to take the time to wait for the next tour. So I mounted up and motored on...

I came down a tall pass and into the town of Vernal, UT and stopped for gas. I met a couple of guys on Vstroms but they were suiting up to leave as I pulled in. They said they were on their way back from a trip up to the Glacier National Park in Montana for a couple of weeks. I didn't get their names or where they were from.

As I got into northwestern Colorado and entered that mountainous area I could see a large anvil head cloud forming to the south. That was going to be a big storm, I thought, I wonder if I will get into it...

As I continued south it loomed larger and larger. I was out of any cell phone range so I couldn't use my phone to check radar. I started over and then down the mountain pass the other side and it got darker and darker. There were no houses or ranches, just road.

I could start to see the edge of the rain several miles away. I can ride in rain, even heavy rain, if I need to. But I like to be following someone and I hadn't see any other traffic for a while.

Then as I got closer I could feel the temperature drop suddenly and it got windy.  VERY windy and gusty. I slowed to about 50 mph as it blasted me from side to side in very unpredictable gusts from all directions. Grass and debris was blowing all over the road and there was a large cloud of dust from a dirt road blowing in front of me. This is not a good sign...

Then I rounded a corner and where I had not seen any before, there was suddenly 4 or 5 large, close, vertical lightening strikes. I could see the edge of the wall of rain not a mile in front of me. Now, I can ride in rain and even wind and hail - but avoid lightening always. Not only is the lightening itself dangerous on an unprotected bike but it is an indicator of strong convective activity - possibly stronger than what I had just ridden through. And those kinds of blasts in heavy rain when I could see even less would not be fun.

Then, about the same time, a pickup truck rounded the corner in front of me and started flashing his lights. Not his highbeams - I mean turning his lights off and on!  Ok, enough subtle hints for me - it is time for a different course of action. I slowed and did a cautious u-turn behind him and went back up the road. I didn't think I could outrun this monster so I needed somewhere to go.

Just a mile back up the road I remembered seeing some kind of building off to the left that had a streetlight on outside and several pickup trucks parked. So I found that dirt road and cautiously wound my way for a quarter mile or so and parked. There was a sign on the side of the double-wide trailer looking building that said "Mine Operations."

The rain was starting to come down heavier so I quickly got my cover out and put it over the bike to cover my tank bag and GPS (which is not waterproof).

With my helmet and jacket still on I walked inside and saw a guy sitting at a desk, who looked at me like a Martian for a second. I said something like "I don't know what this place is but would you mind if I stayed in here for a little while??"

It turned out that this was a mine company building and Gary was a 'mine manager.' He was the only one there and was also a motorcycle rider. For the next half hour or 45 minutes he showed me pictures of him riding with his wife all over Colorado and some longer trips. He had a large touring Harley, a BMW 1200 GSA, his wife a BMW F650 GS, and a couple of smaller 250 size dirt bikes. Great combination for Colorado!

Meanwhile the rain and lightening blasted outside for a while then subsided. In half an hour it was calm and I looked out the window and saw clear blue sky!  I needed to make some more miles so Gary gave me his card and I suited up and headed south again. In the hour that I was there that monster rain cell had moved on and now just a few miles south it was sunny and the roads were dry. Just amazing!

So I needed to make it further south than I had planned to get myself in a better position for the next couple of days to make it home. Rather than stay at a nice campground that my brother recommended for me in Rifle, CO I kept going. Gary told me about a nice state park just south of Montrose, CO. It was now about 6 pm and Montrose was another 100 miles to the south.

So I rode south for 20 miles or so, got on I-70 down to Grand Junction, and then took hwy 50 then 550 down to Montrose. I got some gas and headed south about 10 miles and found the park Gary told me about.

It was a nice state park but of course at this time of year, and this late in the evening, it was packed with RVs. I had to pay $7 for a day pass PLUS $18 for a walk-in tent site. I rode down to the walk-in tent site area. There was a parking lot and then a small foot bridge over a rushing creek to a wooded area. I couldn't see how far the tent sites were from there, but I couldn't carry all my gear that far and I didn't want to leave my bike that far out of my sight with the remaining gear left on it.

I considered going up to the RV area but then I saw some pavilions down below. The gate was closed to that section. I thought well that's good, no one will be going down there. So I slowly idled by the side of the gate between some large rocks and rode down to the pavilions. I parked behind a large tree and some brush so I wasn't visible from the gate. Inside were picnic tables, large fireplace, and a grassy field before the rushing creek.

It was about 8:30 and getting dark so I got my stuff unloaded. I heated up some water for a Mountain House freeze dried meal and while that sat for 10 minutes I set up my tent in the small grassy field. I was done and in my sleeping bag by 9:15 and passed out after a long day (510 miles and a close call with a monster rain storm).

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