Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 10

I was in four states today(Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico), all at the same time. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

I'm headed to Utah, but not before I do a little loop in Colorado. The guy that's mowing the motel lawn is raving about 550, so it has to be good. It's not - it's freakin' phenomenal! I won't do it injustice by describing it, but I'll just say that it stands on a pedestal right next to the Beartooth Highway. This is most fun yoy can have with your clothes on, period. Up and down and up and down the Rockies, one vista more beautiful than the other, each corner more alluring. To top it all off, the weather is perfect - low to mid twenties (even at several passes over 10,000ft)with just enough clouds to make the scenery even more beautiful. This is what touring on a bike is all about. A Porshe in front carries a good clip but doesn't stay in front for long. Very little other traffic to ruin the rhythm.

On the returning leg (145S) the scenery was not as good (although very pretty by any standard), so I concentrated on the perfectly engineered road that was closely following the river. I was really in the zone.

On a gas stop (very friendly staff offered good food advice) a guy about my age who's obviously been around the block a few times suggests I visit some hot springs that are on my way. Then I remembered some hot springs in Colorado that a guy in Death Valley told me about in 2011 and realized those are one and the same. Clothing optional, he says. Talk about fun with your clothes on, and off!

I found the spring as per instructions - I wouldn't otherwise stumble upon it even by chance. It's right by the Dolores river and it's not a commercial place. Locals just captured a natural hot spring and turned it into a mini jacuzzi oasis. Right by the river and mere 100m from the road, yet secluded. No one was there, so I opted out of my clothes and dove right in. What a feeling that was after several hours of hard riding! I stayed there and relaxed like a sultan for a while. As I was leaving, a local came buy and told me there's another spring across the river, even hotter and in a more natural setting with water streaming in little geysers right next to you. Next time, road beckons. If this place was near a big city I would never tell anyone where it is, but
Since it's more than far enough - Rico, Colorado :).

Coming out of the mountains on a straight stretch between Dolores and Cortez I pass 4 cars at about 30mph over the limit only to look straight at a police car coming towards me. On come the cherries and the siren, so I prepare to pull over and look in the mirror. Nada! In my defence, it was a very safe and legal pass, apart from the speed.

Speaking of speeding (again) I obey all limits under 45 in populated areas. Once in the open desert or remote mountains though...

Because of the hot spring break (worth every minute and then some) I decided to skip the original plan of going to Mesa Verde and head straight for Four Points and Monument Valley. That took me through mostly flat desert with temperatures hovering around 35 and dry heat. Off comes the helmet. It's too hot and I need to relax my neck, I'm rationalizing. Well, nothing to it - I've done it before. What was different this time is that I had plenty of time (100 miles or so) to do whatever I want as far as speed is concerned. So I stopped checking the speed and just went as fast as I felt comfortable. Since in the desert there is no reference to gauge your speed you just go by your natural feeling. It turned out that in these conditions (straight and well maintained road, no strong side wind, fully loaded bike, no helmet, little traffic or distractions...) my comfortable cruising speed is between 85 and 100mph. However, better hearing protection than just earplugs is necessary - my ears are still ringing. Facial masage was good though :).

Monument Valley was a bit of a disappointment. Magnificent, but not really for this kind of tour. I'd like to get up close and personal and it can't be done on a bike or in one day.

Dropped the bike as I was pulling over next to a (man made) monument. Into unexpected deep sand and on the side she goes. Turned the engine off and took the camera out. Bike isn't going to get any worse and this needs to be recorded :). I was pretty sure I won't be able to pick it up by myself but since no one was pulling over to help I tried anyway. And succeeded, with the first try. Got the bike to a stable surface and inspected the damage. None, not even the turn signal. She fell on the right, so no sand got on the chain either. Lucky break.

I tried to go down the unpaved Valley Road but after a white-knuckle ride over the rock covered with sand to the first overlook and almost dropping the bike again I stopped pushing my luck. Packed dirt, gravel and rock I can deal with but neither the bike nor myself are suited for loose sand.

Today I also had my closest ever encounter with Bambi. As I was approaching Monticello coon after sundown I came into a marked elk crossing zone. Allright, just focus on the side of the road and anything that moves. Easier said then done, especially with my vision impaired by the increasingly bug-splattered visor. So, she was standing in the middle of the opposite lane with her side towards me facing my lane. I didn't see her at all until I was about 50m away and would have no way to avoid hitting her if she just took a few steps forward. Fortunately she got spooked by the bike, turned around and ran.

What a day! No idea yet where I'll go tomorrow.

It looks like I didn't record yesterday's track :(. I'll do it by memory later.

P.S. Don't forget to check the pictures at http://album.xxc.cc. I'm uploading as much as I can and they speak a thousand words