September 2 - 4, 2021
Thursday's drive south from Vernal, Utah, to Fruita, Colorado, is 130 miles of two-lane road. From pitted, bumpy and very narrow to newly paved and comfortably wide, it's beautiful most of the way. Towering colorful canyons with amazing rock formations lead into pine forest covered mountains.
About that mountain.....Douglas Pass is 7% grade on both sides with a speed limit of 25 mph, and 15 mph switchback turns. It's also one of the narrow sections of the road. But there is very little other traffic, and it is stunning (and you're going slow enough to really see it!). I'm not nervous up or down, but it always feels good to get to the bottom :-) Not sure I'd want to drive it from south to north as that is a LOT more steep uphill. Actually, we drop elevation all the way to I-70 just west of Fruita.
|Still going down, looking back up at the road - it's a lot further "up there" than it looks here!|
Monument RV Park is easy to find, and we get set up on our level all-gravel 50 amp FHU site. Basic city park with few trees and close neighbors, it's perfect for our needs this holiday weekend. As I always try to get the holidays covered first, I made this reservation nine months ago!
Late lunch at Cattleman's Grill in Loma is tasty, even having to fight the flies for our meal. The restaurant and bar share the building with the livestock auction facility so it's not hard to guess where the little pests are coming from.
We've heard about the scenic drives in the area, and with our Colorado time cut short we want to take advantage of what we can see here. Friday morning we take the Historic Rim Rock Drive, 23 miles of grand views ranked high on the country's "most beautiful" lists.
The only "history" we encounter is a reference to the cattle trail that was the original route to the canyon's rim, and the building of the road itself. I continue to be amazed and appreciative of the roads built just so we have access to these gorgeous natural wonders.
|The 23 mile road travels up, over and through some of the most beautiful canyons we've ever seen. And we've seen a lot!|
|Independence Monument to the right is a beauty. A fellow traveler at the pull out tells us there are climbers near the top.|
|With full zoom I find them on this ledge preparing to reach the summit.|
|First up assists his partner for the last step.|
|Which one of us is calling the helicopter?|
|Interesting formations along the roadside.|
|Red stripes brush along the canyon walls.|
|Upper Utte Canyon where the dark clouds drop light rain.|
|A bright burst along the trail.|
|Canyon walls on all sides.|
|Erosion creates a variety of gallery pieces.|
Grand Junction has a cute historic downtown, but very little parking that we can find. We do find a tasty lunch at Main Street Cafe, but the sprinkles felt earlier become a pretty good rain so we miss a stroll through the restored area.
The main reason we kept Fruita on our route (although the anticipated natural beauty is a strong second) before returning to California is to see a dear friend from high school. Terri and I were buddies my senior year, and have only seen each other at one reunion over the many years since. She is here with her mom and youngest brother and his wife. Our first meeting is for dinner at nearby El Tapatio, including their good friends Eddie and Kelly who also live in the area. We enjoy a lively evening and very good meals. Good margaritas too! Afterwards Terri and mom Lois come to visit our little home for more visiting. While I fail to get pics, we are going to their home for Sunday brunch where I'm sure to remember!
Saturday morning we get a slow start for Grand Mesa. The lower route takes us through golden formations along a shallow running creek. As we climb we're in thick pines and hardwoods. Long distance views show how high we're climbing - at one point we're level with the high clouds on the other side of the valley. Just past 10,000 feet I'm feeling the elevation in a not-good way. When the road narrows and continues to climb I turn around. Not having fun, not feeling good, not going any further. Little did we know at this point that feeling funky was the least of bad things happening elsewhere. That would once again cause a major change in our plans.
|A small lake, part of the recreational area.|
|Still some smoke in the valley, but certainly better than previous stops.|
|The green is so lush!|
Taking a little break on the way down my phone pings that I have service again. And a voice mail. From Jeff back in Tombstone. Call, it's an emergency.
Horrible things go through a mother's mind, but at least he was able to leave a message. When he answers my call he sounds good. Whew!
"An SUV crashed into the house" is NOT what I'm expecting to hear! Learning that no one was hurt is not only amazing but a huge relief. Police and fire are there, utilities are turned off, he has all the information from the driver, the neighbors are a big help. He's calm and in control and that makes me feel the same way. We all laugh about the absurdity.
|I see a new fireplace in our future.|
|Glad Jeff's car was on the other side of the garage - still got a few dents from that flying door :-(|
Of course we'll head home in the morning.
The afternoon is spent cancelling all the reservations I finalized two days ago. It's becoming second nature.
I'm bummed to tell Terri we can't do brunch on Sunday. No pics after all :-(
Our summer isn't wrapping up the way we planned, not even the way we re-planned - but having a flexible life style is a blessing as are our family and friends.