Day 27: Cortez CO to Blanding UT: 82 miles with 3500 feet of climbing
I overslept, so I didn't get on the road till about 9:15 this morning. Not a big deal since I had another relatively easy day. Relatively easy in that the wind and the amount of climbing were moderate, since it still took me almost seven and a half hours of actual riding time.
I started my morning with a big breakfast, a breakfast big enough to get me to Dove Creek, about 36 miles from Cortez, with only a short stop to drink some gatorade at about 30 miles. The gatorade seemed to work well as a 'bonk delayer' and I used it again before I got to Monticello UT. It was funny, in a way, that I had to force myself to eat all of my breakfast. After I have been touring for a week or two, my appetite decreases as my body adjusts to being on tour. Still, even if my body didn't 'need' that food, I knew it was a long way to the first place to eat and I knew I better fill up.
Riding out through Cortez was fun. The downtown is neat with lots of little stores and galleries. I take back what I said yesterday about it being a dusty place. It really seems like a really nice place. Turning on US 666 (the fundamentalist Christians must have time with that!) I had a nice long downhill followed by an equally long uphill. Of course it took five times as long to crank, creakingly, up the hill as it did to whoosh down it. That experience was repeated many times today.
The riding was good from Cortez to Dove Creek. It started with an initial climb from 6200 to almost 7000 feet over ten miles or so - another one of those 2% grade things and then became 'rolling hills.' I did get rather tired of swooping down a hundred feet of so vertical at 35 mph and then having to crank back up again, but overall it was fun. I saw another tourist, a young lady riding a mountain bike with those strange panniers that go over, as well as on the sides of, the rear rack. We passed on a busy part of 666, so I didn't get to visit with her, but she, and all of her gear, looked quite new to touring.
Colorado Beanfield with Utah Backdrop
I stopped for lunch at the 'Dinner Box' in Dove Creek. Dove Creek is a pleasant small town. Come to think of it, all the surroundings from Cortez to Dove Creek were pleasant, much greener and much less arid than what I have become used to in New Mexico. After Dove Creek the land was less fruitful looking. Actually that should be 'beanful' since this area is the pinto bean capital of the US! I saw a lot of irrigated bean fields. They, and the land they are on, are much less boring than corn fields!
I also rode from Dove Creek to Monticello UT, about 25 miles, with only a short stop for gatorade. This riding wasn't much fun. The terrain wasn't pretty and I acquired a moderate headwind as the road turned west. The shoulder, and general road conditions, deteriorated at the Utah border. After that, most of the ride to Monticello was just grinding out miles. I did enjoy the mountains that are west of Monticello. They provided a nice backdrop to the otherwise not too nice view. Monticello itself wasn't exciting either, but it does have a full range of services.
In Monticello I had a large coke (44 ounces) and a big Baby Ruth bar. Water, caffeine, sugar, and calories were the objective. Then I rode south on US 191 to Blanding. I expected that to be an easy ride, but I was wrong.
Utah Wheatfield with Colorado Backdrop
Monticello bills itself as "Gateway to the Canyonlands" and I found out why as I headed south. There was an initial climb back to 7000 feet, a nice stretch of pretty flat riding, and then a 400 foot vertical whoosh into a canyon with the corresponding long climb out. The climbing continued for quite a while and then there was a 9% grade sign just before a real whoosh (I hit 46 mph) down into the Devils Canyon area. Then the road climbed out, but not all the way out and I saw a vista of rolling hills leading down into desert canyons. The road lost about 1000 feet in the next few miles and the temperature climbed. The road bottomed out at Recapture Dam - quite pretty - and then climbed back to 6200 feet before entering Blanding.
9% grade - 45 mph
Blanding is a more interesting place than Monticello with an active tourist business and pretty surroundings. It also has a bunch of reasonably priced motels - one at $25, but no phone so I couldn't stay there - and a good restaurant - The Four Corners Inn. I had an excellent steak for supper - I do that once a tour - and I look forward to a good breakfast before I set out on my long ride through the desert to Lake Powell tomorrow.