August 8 – 10
As anticipated, it would be a long day’s drive, a combination of two-lane state highways and as we had experienced throughout the trip, interstates filled with constructions zones. In many areas of the country, repaving can only be done in decent weather and this meant mile after mile of one lane travel at 55 mph, often on the other side of the four lanes, your side having been shut down completely.
A few hours into the drive we stopped at a Denny’s in Rock Springs, Wyoming for breakfast. We’ve come to rely on this chain for nicely prepared reasonably priced food, with a broad enough menu to fit any appetite at any time of the day. What I’ve been drawn to is the 55+ menu, featuring healthier versions of regular menu items often with smaller portion sizes.
Joanna selected a special that month, the Avocado Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken and I went for the 55+ Fit Fare Loaded Veggie Omelet (with spinach, mushrooms, sautéed zucchini and squash, diced tomatoes and Swiss cheese). It was nice to sit down and break the tedium of the long drive and in the end, we got out of there, including two cups of coffee for $28 including the tip.
We arrived at Sharon and Doug’s new place in Cedaredge early in the evening, glad to be out of the car and in the company of good friends. Sharon had a light dinner of crock pot pulled pork which she added BBQ sauce to, making for as many sandwiches as the body needed.
The next day, our only one with Rendy in town, we took care of some errands in the morning (yet one more trip to the emergency room for me to check out a swollen glad in my throat and then pick up some antibiotics) and then set out in the car, five of us in their Nissan Murano, a tight squeeze for the three of us in the back seat.
Our destination was the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a place Joanna and I have been trying to get to for many years. Established as a national monument in 1933 and re-designated a national park in 1999, the park contains 12 miles of the 48-mile long Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, much of it the deepest section.
It’s name owes itself to the fact that parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day; The Gunnison River drops an average of 34 feet per mile through the entire canyon, making it the 5th steepest mountain descent in North America. As a result, the canyon is often shrouded in shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black and at its narrowest point it is only 40 ft wide at the river. By comparison, the Colorado River drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile through the Grand Canyon.
It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see, made even more so by having viewpoints without any railing or barriers restricting access to the canyon’s edge. I am not a brave soul when it comes to heights and getting close to a sheer edge like that gives me the willies; worse was watching Joanna get close (not really that close) and still in my mind’s eye I saw her slipping away.
Much better was a short walk down to a fortified view point, a solid wood balustrade to give us succor, the drop still precipitous but now enjoyable as we clung tightly to the railing. We departed not long after and wound our way back to the house, twisty winding roads and a cramped rear seat combined with the ten-hour day drive the day before taking a toll on my back, spasms that wouldn’t quite until the next day.
For dinner that night we drove into Delta, the larger town next to Cedaredge for an enjoyable time at Needle Rock Brewing. We ordered our first round of beers, all decent stuff and food for the table, for
Joanna had the ‘Guy Named Reuben’, house made pastrami on marbled rye and I the Leann, a grilled chicken breast sandwich with peppered bacon and cheddar cheese. By this point in time we’d eaten so much “pub” food that as good as it can be, it all seemed to blend together, the downside of extended travel and multiple meals in restaurants.
Of interest was Doug and Rendy’s choice, the Pig and Chips, beer-battered pork loin and fries with sauces. It looked pretty good, except after a piece or two it might have been a bit too much. That being said, plates were cleaned, and the participants seemed to enjoy their meal.
Doug took Rendy up the road the next morning to pick up a rental car to Denver and while doing so, Joanna and I slipped out for a bike ride. We worked our way up Main Street to the intersection of Surface Creek and Cedar Mesa Roads. We’d come down a very steep section of the latter in the car the day before and wanted to tackle the seemingly flatter option of the former.
There are days on the bike when you feel invincible and others when you wonder why you even ride. This day felt like the latter as we continued riding at a slower than normal pace for a flat road. We struggled on until we hit a section where it just didn’t seem worth it anymore and decided to bail out and turn around.
That’s when we discovered that the road hadn’t been flat, but instead had a steady and insistent grade of some consequence, enabling us to ride back down at better than 25-miles per hour. It didn’t take long to arrive at the Cedar Mesa intersection and now feeling like real cyclists, we decided to tackle the steep grade up to the top of the mesa. Sometimes, the seemingly insurmountable challenge is easier than the simple one and without much strain we topped out for a stunning view of the valley below.
We descended, passing a group of cyclists heading up the hill, signs of an active community in the area. We thought about turning around and joining them but ended up riding to the small downtown section of Cedaredge and out to some suburbs before returning to the house to run some errands and prepare for our drive to Denver the next day.
During our short stay with Sharon and Doug we’d just scratched the surface of this new area, they’re having lived in Denver for many years. We can look forward to more trips to the western slope and all it has to offer. And as we’ve done for so many years, return we will, good friends and new adventures making the trip more than worthwhile.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison: https://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm
Needle Rock Brewing: https://needlerockbrewing.business.site/