The general idea was to fly into Grand Junction, Colorado and spend five days doing
a hub-and-spoke tour of the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Valley. One of the five
days would be spent driving down to Moab, Utah to ride out to, and through, the
Arches National Park.
After consulting with the Farmer's Almanac, Weather.com historical data, and very
helpful Grand Junction resident John Hodge, I pinpointed the last week of August
as the ideal week to travel. It would be hot and dry that week, which is what I prefer.
There were two objectives: 1) Get the bike there and 2) Get me there.
After one experience of taking the bike with me on the plane for the Berkshire trip, dragging it through the airport, squeezing
it into a rental car, and dragging it into the hotel, I decided on a different approach
Months in advance, I set up shipping through Bike Flights. They contract with FedEx but at much lower
rates than most of us can get. About ten days ahead of time, they email you a prepaid
FedEx shipping label. Drop it in a stick-on label envelope on the outside of your
bike box, disassemble and pack the bike, then drop the box off at any FedEx location.
After contacting the manager in advance and confirming acceptance (most will do
this), I had the bike shipped directly to the hotel. On the shipping label, I hand-wrote
"Hold For Arrival, 8-25-2012" and called them a couple of days in advance to remind
them when it would arrive. It worked perfectly! I was able to fly with just a carry-on
bag. When I walked into the hotel, the bike box was waiting for me. At the end of
the trip, all I had to do was disassemble and repack the bike, change the shipping
label, and drop the box off at the local FedEx. Easy-peasy.
To get myself there, I booked on United. An interesting experience. At the gate,
when they scanned my boarding pass to enter the plane, they tore it up and reissued
new boarding passes for both legs. Apparently, they had changed my seating without
notifying me and without explanation. These were not optimal seats but the plane
On the way back, there was some confusion about which gate in the small Grand Junction
airport would actually be handling the outbound flight. If you're a local, you know.
If you read the electronic departure board, you're confused. I finally found the
right gate and got to Houston but found out the inbound plane for the connecting
flight was three hours late. Once it arrived, it had more mechanical trouble. In
the end, I arrived home five hours late.
Where to Stay
Grand Junction has a population of about 55,000 so it has just about all of the
major hotel chains and a host of quaint bed and breakfast places. For this trip,
I chose the Hampton Inn in the historic downtown
area. Hampton's are comfortable and reasonably priced, serve a hot and cold breakfast
bar each morning (included in the room price), along with free wifi, and fresh cookies
each afternoon. This particular hotel was within walking distance of many restaurants,
shops, and a grocery store. There were also four bike shops within a few blocks
so any emergency bike repairs would be easy to handle.
Alternatives included a Springhill Suites across the street and a Marriott next
Day One - Highline Lake
The idea was to make the first day an "acclimation" ride and this was a perfect
choice. General impressions of Grand Junction: It has a beautiful, quaint downtown
area (where my hotel is), gorgeous homes and pristine neighborhoods, loads of well-maintained
little parks sprinkled everywhere, and the people are generally so friendly that
it is, unfortunately, surprising. At one point, I stopped to take a photo and had
already finished when an approaching couple on bikes, slowed and apologized for
disrupting my shot. They didn't. Not even by a long shot. But people are that nice
This is top-notch, high desert riding. Highline Lake turned out to be a beautifully
maintained state park. This area is very bike friendly.
Seriously, I've never seen such a large number of the populace that rides.
In just one day, I encountered three people in the process of biking to work. There
were road bikes everywhere. I haven't seen that many on the road outside of an event
like Bike MS or something. There are lots of statues in the downtown area, many
of which are bike-related. Wow!
There are all kinds of farms and ranches here. Lots of corn growing, plenty of horses,
cows, sheep, goats, and... surprisingly... alpaca.
Day Two - Colorado National Monument
This is the crown jewel of Grand Valley bike riding and a route I had been looking
forward to for months. The National Park Service put a
on the roof of the
visitors center and pointed it at the canyon. The camera faces east so the best time to
view the rock formations is the middle to late afternoon when the afternoon sun is
lighting the canyon walls.
The weather threw a surprise at me on the morning of this ride in the form
of an early morning rain storm. On the plus side, the clouds kept the temps down
for the 2800+ feet of climbing up the side of the mountain and they cleared off
later to give pleasantly sunny views. Unfortunately, clouds have a tendency to gather
near the tops of the mountains and just sit.
After a long, long climb, stopping frequently to take photos, I had lunch at the
National Monument visitor center and sat for almost two hours waiting for the clouds
to part. They finally did for about two minutes so I got a decent shot.
Coming back down the mountain seemed to go a bit quicker. ;-) The speed limit was
posted as 25... but I figured that was for everybody else, not me. Not going to
say how fast I was going but I did grossly exceed it a few times.
Tried to shoot some video while riding but it didn't work out so well. Turns out the
camera mounted on a gorilla pod is too shaky so I shot a little by hand. The total thing is less than
three minutes long. A part of it is a little shaky but then it settles down.
Day Three - Orchard Mesa Loop/Palisade
Now THIS is my kind of touring! What a great ride. Down by the Colorado River, out
into the orchards and vineyards, stopping at lots of little mom and pop shops, turning
around in the charming little town of Palisade for lunch, back down along the river
on the Colorado River State Park trail, and ending up at Dairy Queen for a blizzard
at the end of the ride. Modest climbing and a "Yeehaw" downhill that'll get your
The morning started off with the strongest breeze so far on this trip: a headwind
of about 15-17 mph but it dissipated after about an hour and a half.
The intention was to photograph every orchard and vineyard I encountered. Yeah...
that lasted about an hour and then I gave up on that idea. Holy cow; they're everywhere!!!!
My friend John Hodge had recommended stopping at a certain peach orchard as they
often give away peaches that are too ripe to ship out.
Unfortunately, I forgot the
name. So, I ended up stopping at a lot of them. LOL Before lunch, I had already
had four full peaches and a little piece of fudge. Peaches that are so ripe you
have to lean over to eat them or the juice runs down your face and drips on your
clothes. Know what I'm talking about?
Palisade, Colorado turned out to be one of those cute little towns you might find
on a post card, nestled between the Colorado River and Mount Garfield. Photos will
be posted shortly.
And, once again, everyone I met was friendly and helpful and nice. Great place to
visit and this was a top-notch "touring" ride.
Day Four - Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Up early, dawn on the high desert, hit Moab, Utah, and stopped at Denny's for breakfast.
The waiter at Denny's suggested I just leave the car there while riding the three
miles back to the Arches National Park entrance. Very nice of him and a good idea
since I could come right back inside for a cool drink and a snack after the ride.
There are no services inside the park. That means no food, only the occasional
terlet facilities, and the only water was all the way at the far end. I packed two
24 oz bottles of Gatorade, a bottle of water, a banana, and a turkey and cheese
sandwich for lunch. ...and off I went in search of another adventure.
What an adventure it was, too! The temp was forecasted to reach 99 in Moab, and
it did, but it seemed even hotter on the valley floor inside the park. After paying
the entry fee, I rode up and up and up. Made it to the top and stopped to see some
interesting rock formations. Now, there are fascinating rock formations every direction
you look. Everywhere. After a while, I stopped taking photos of all but the most
After a short but fast downhill, I arrived at Balanced Rock. It was an easy hike
around to the side that was sunlit. From there, I went on to Windows. This was the
place I had been looking for and is usually the arches shot you see in publications.
What I didn't know was that the arches were about a 3/4 mile hike from the parking
lot. ...and I didn't bring a lock for my bike.
Yes... I picked up the fully-loaded
bike and hiked back to see the arches. It was well-worth it!! Back at the parking
lot, the ranger said I was tough for carrying it all the way up and all the way
back. Tough... or brainless. Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference.
From there, I went on to Delicate Arch. That was a mistake. It wasn't all that spectacular
and it left me with a five mile uphill climb in the upper 90s. I've lived in the
desert and know how to manage myself for heat exhaustion. I made the tactical decision
to not continue on and do the six miles to the end of the road. I turned back here,
took it slow and easy up the five mile slope, rested in shade when possible, and
When I crested the top of the hill and saw the visitor center down below, I was
so happy that I sang "Hallelujah" at the top of my lungs all the way down the mountain.
Day Five - Reeder Mesa Loop
What a way to end the tour! Okay, I'll admit... it didn't start off to be a good
day. Woke up with a sore lower left back... probably from schlepping my bike up
the trail at Arches yesterday... and had to walk across the street for some Aleve.
It didn't help. Every pedal stroke was a twinge and every bump was a pain. I finally
decided to ignore it and ride anyway. ;-) Also, there was one rain cloud in the
area and it appeared to be in the general direction I was headed... so I packed
the rain jacket.
The ride out was kind of... unexpected. After crossing US 50 (could
have turned left and would have eventually ended up back in Orlando) and heading
out into the county, there was nothing. Nothing. Just raw desert. And a 14 mph headwind.
Passed through one small town but it didn't have a gas station or anything. Further
on: climbing and climbing and more climbing. At one point, I (silly me) thought
I was on top and on flat terrain. But it was still so slow pedaling. About 5 or
6 mph was all I could squeeze out of it at one point. The road had recently been
repaved with some sort of composite. Recently enough that rocks were sticking to
my tires. Twice I stopped to knock off the rocks. Once I stopped to check if the
rear tire had gone flat and a couple of times I even questioned my physical conditioning.
It was that hard to pedal!
Turned out I was gradually going uphill the whole time.
Plus, the road may have been a little sticky and slowing me down some. When I rounded
a curve, I discovered I was at the top and there was a lush mountain valley in front
Yep, I was headed down into that!
If you ever do this route, there is a cutoff
road that would avoid some of this climbing. Don't take it! Deal with the climbing.
It's worth it. When I descended into the valley, there was a small park next to
Kannah (kay-nuh) Creek. No tables but large boulders, plenty of shade, the babbling
creek next to me, and outhouses. A great place for lunch! After some food and rest,
it got even better. The next nine miles were down hill!! I pedaled maybe twice for
about 100 yards each. Nine miles! If you take the cutoff road, you miss all of that.
Don't take the cut off road. Don't miss that.
Back in town, I stopped at Eagle Rim
park. It's up on top of an overlook over the Colorado River and is a nice park with
gazebos and a skate park and restroom and such. Could have gone on to the hotel...
it was only two more miles... but this was the end of the tour and it was a beautiful
afternoon and I just felt like relaxing there for a while.
What a great trip!
The GPX Routes
Local resident John Hodge has done an excellent job of publishing maps of bicycle routes
in the general area. They are annotated with notes including water stops, rough crossings,
etc, and were an invaluable resource in planning the routes from the hotel. His maps are
Using John's maps as a starting point, I used RideWithGps.com and plotted the following
These routes were then downloaded to my computer as GPX files and installed in my Garmin
Edge 800 GPS device to keep me on track. It worked perfectly.
Slideshow of photos
Click here to open an automated slideshow of the photos from
this tour. Hope you enjoy.
This was a fantastic high desert tour! There is some climbing, so be forewarned. Some of
the rides have NO services so over-plan on the amount of water and food/snacks you want to
take. Feel free to download the GPX routes listed above or create a free account on RideWithGPS
to create your own routes. (I won't create them for you.)
If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact me using the link below.
Please fill out the fields below and click Send.