• Plan A Travels: Spain→Andorra→France
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Status: ruined
  • Cause: coronavirus
  • Plan B Travels: Colorado→Utah→Colorado
  • Duration: 3 weeks
  • Status: completed

The forecast for our first, long day of driving out to Colorado called for clear, sunny skies and zero chance of rain, so naturally, twenty-five minutes into our journey we were forced by a sudden, raging deluge to take cover at a road-side gas station for nearly half an hour.  The Roman goddess Tempestas, satisfied she had made her presence known, permitted us a squall-free journey the rest of the way—even through Nebraska, home of the white-knuckler superstorm.

A day and a half later we found ourselves in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Earlier thoughts of Grand Junction as a possible contender for where we might like to find ourselves in our post-working years were immediately discarded.  There’s nothing objectively wrong with Grand Junction, but it is, I discovered, too far removed from the mountains, surprisingly flat, and hot, hot, hot.  Its prime location, poised as it is between our two favorites—mountain-y mountains and canyon-y deserts—was not enough to overcome its liabilities.

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A whimsical piece of artwork in downtown Grand Junction.  Cute, but not enough to inspire relocation.

Having assessed Grand Junction for suitable future habitation and found it lacking, we turned our attention to our only other goal: cycling the Colorado National Monument.

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More downtown whimsy

During normal years (read: when there’s not a pandemic wreaking havoc on all the ancient traditions) there exists a ride called the Tour of the Moon, which in the ’80s was a stage of the Coors International Bicycle Classic pro-am race.  Our aim was to cycle its 41-mile route.

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Because it’s my M.O., but also because of the blistering heat, we wanted to get an early start.  However, on the day of the ride—our one and only full day in Grand Junction—the husband woke up feeling ill, probably due to the heat and dehydration.  (I stifled the urge to tease him with names like delicate flower and heat weakling until he was feeling better.  That’s the kind of thoughtful, loving wife I am.)  He went back to catch some therapeutic ZZZs while I engaged in my morning ritual of coffee and crosswords.  After a while, he awoke hale and hearty, so we got ready and drove to a different part of town to find a suitable place to park the car.  It was then that the husband discovered he had forgotten the keys needed to unlock the bikes from the rack, so back to the campsite we went.  (Note: this is called “faffing about” in British English and I get accused of it regularly, but on this day ’twas I who was the victim of someone else’s faffing.  Ahem.)  The result of all this was that we didn’t set off on two wheels until 10:15 a.m., at which point it was already uncomfortably warm.

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The monument doesn’t look all that national-monument-worthy from a distance, but once you get into it, it’s stunning.

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We elected to ride the route clockwise, which meant nearly an hour of climbing switchbacks until we got to the top of the monument where it flattened out somewhat.

Though there was little shade, every so often a hovering pinnacle of rock cast a shadow on the road, and it was in those cooler oases that I understood what it would have felt like had we started the ride at our originally-planned time.

Colorado National Monument (1)

This necessitated that I direct a few choice words at the husband, but for the most part I was a pleasant and affable cycling partner.  See?  Happy, not crabby:

The only other thing that vexed me was this ironic but not remotely funny sign:

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Up top it was a bit cooler and the scenery continued to knock our socks off.  What’s more, the road surface was smooth and traffic was very light.  Spectacular.

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My mood only started to get spiky during the last ten or so miles of the ride.  (The husband claims I get spiky during the last ten miles of any ride, including nine-mile rides.) We were out of the cool monument and onto the low, dull road riding back into town.  It felt like we had descended into a sauna.

Colorado Nat'l Monument

Back at the campsite, fresh from its cold pool and a cool shower, we started sweating profusely again.  Firing up my trusty weather app, I learned that our next destination—Escalante, Utah—would be even hotter than Grand Junction, and the destination after that—Moab, Utah—would make them both seem downright chilly.

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I put on my Travel Architect hat and got to work trying to dodge the heat zones and escape to somewhere cooler.  Alas, the international travel plans ruined by, and/or the cabin fever caused by coronavirus seemed to have brought road trippers out in droves.  Open campsites were very hard to come by.  Though I couldn’t find a replacement for our five nights in Escalante, we were able to snag a recently-cancelled site in Ouray, Colorado, so we would be able to skip sweltering Moab.

With cooler temps to look forward to six days hence, we spent our final night sweating in Grand Junction, then headed across the border to sweat some more in Utah . . .


49 thoughts

  1. Yes, Grand Junction too hot. You need to retire near Glenwood Springs. Perfectly situated between the mountains and the desert. Ski one day and mtn bike the next.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The rock formations and canyon walls are gorgeous. Thanks for taking on the heat for us:) The campsites here are completely full too, these staycations are tough to organize or alter last minute, which is usually the way we travel.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this place! How cool to explore it by bike, I imagine you’re able to see the scenery in much more detail than when driving through. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. It is nice to bike a place like that, though I think driving it (which we considered doing counterclockwise but ran out of time) would be very enjoyable, too. It’s just harder to justify the post-monument pizza if you drive it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another blogger I read often uses the phrase “faffing about.” I finally asked (accused?) her of being British, but she vehemently denies this. Maybe it’s similar to my propensity for occasionally adding the letter “u” to words like colour, favour, and labour. Just because.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m usually up at 4:30 am and go to bed between 8-9pm. (A thrilling nightlife we do not have.) The one thing we were dreading had our Spain/France trip not been canceled in July was the ungodly hour at which the Spanish eat dinner. France isn’t much better, but Spain’s dinnertime is insane.

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  5. “Heat weakling” 😂😂😂

    Ok, that was funny. In all seriousness though, the more I read about your trip the more amazing it sounds. I am in absolute awe that you did as much cycling as you did with temperatures as they were. And your photos are amazing!!! 👍

    Liked by 3 people

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