Colorado National Monument & McInnis Canyons Arches

Claire examining an arch; good thing she’s a lightweight!

June 1. Colorado National Monument.
One of our lesser known national monuments, it overlooks Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado and the Grand Valley, former name of the Colorado River here. The Colorado River flows lazily though the valley, irrigation pump sucking at it as thousands will do, and a small river of it gets ditched to Phoenix and Tucson, and much more to California, until it reaches the Mexican border, and disappears. We are too early for the peaches, and of course the wine grapes are tiny and green; some other year.
Wonderful sunset last night over Wedding Canyon, looking very much like Southeast Utah. We decided on the rim road bike ride today. Nice, except for the road construction, canyon edge riding and a detour to a crossroads store that was probably very nice one time, but now only sells scented candles, chips and beer. Must be all the ageing hippies moving in to build funky houses and horse corrals, all with a view: been there.

Tomorrow we will try another mountain bike ride, and hope it’s not another sand epic as the one in Arches. The second largest collection of arches in the US, outside of Arches National Park, is supposed to be at the end of about a 22-mile mountain bike ride from the rim road. It’s outside the national monument in a newly (to us) designated McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, that runs all the way into Utah. It is divided into zones of usage: mountain bike and ORV, horse and hiking, and river running, and areas of trail-less wilderness. I wonder if it is an experiment in separating the, sometimes competing, groups of public-lands users from each other?

June 2. McInnis Canyons arches mountain bike ride.

No epic mountain bike this time, just a couple of challenging climbs, and lots of wildflowers to cheer us on, the scent of sage and the expansive Colorado Plateau vistas that we love so much. The arches were fun, if nothing compared to the ones in Arches NP, but the hike from the end of the track was pleasant, and one sliver-rock arch was a hoot; we felt like kids, inching up on the thin part, teasing about causing it to collapse. I told Claire to tell all my friends my demise was, if premature, spectacular. What a treat to return to Turtle for a warm shower and icy drinks from the refrigerator. We are spoiled.

Grand Junction, Co.

May 31. Grand Junction.

The town sort of grows on you. There are negatives: The library wi fi is slow as molasses and there is some kind of red sign local ordinance posted in both Wal*Marts; we pretty much ignore them. The pulses are that the slow wi fi is free and unlimited for those with laptops, and if you get your pictures uploaded before noon, it’s not too bad. The no overnight parking ordinance is usually a sign to us that we are not wanted and we go elsewhere, but there is no where else to go, except back to Moab, and the ordinances are mildly written and apparently not enforced. We went to Safeway, otherwise spend money only at Wal*Mart. We certainly wouldn’t go to an RV park here, since they are always behind the no parking at Wal*Mart ordinances. We would use RV parks once in awhile, if they were decent and charged a reasonable rate. They charge $25 for a dangerous electric pedestal, a filthy, poor draining sewer hookup, water hookups far from the pad, poorly maintained toilets/showers, neighbors tight on both sides and surly help. What do they expect? We have our own electricity from batteries, and can use our generator, we can go for a week without a dump and almost that long on water. Duh. And they want to force us to pay for what we don’t need. No way. When they provide a service we need, just parking, for a reasonable rate, say $5, then maybe. That’s about how much profit we drop on Wal*Mart each night we park in their lot. I’m surprised more big box stores don’t welcome RVers. There are several million of us traveling the US at any given time. The space sits empty, Rvers actually provide some security, and we buy our essentials from them: milk, ice cream, ice cream, ice cream etc.
The downtown of Grand Junction is in fine revival, sculptures everywhere, traffic calming and lots of places to eat and walk. We took a break from working all day (third day) in the library and walked around downtown taking pictures of sculptures for a story on NW Colorado for an RV magazine.
On the way to our fourth overnight here, we saw a man crossing the street in a powered wheelchair and he had a fluff duck in his pack. We like people who like fluff animals. Good folks. It takes guts to show your fluff-head buddies in public.

Arches Epic and New Friends

Arches National Park, May 27, 2007
We were at the park visitors center at 6:30am to make sure we got one of the few remaining campground sites. There were seven available, and we were number three. We drove to the end and picked the site we wanted, it was still occupied by three people in two tents. Their car looked nearly loaded, so we parked to wait for them to leave, not wanting to hurry them. After a few minutes we walked to the site to put our daily reservation on the post, so someone else wouldn’t get the really spectacular view site. We talked to the people there, who turned out to be from the south of France. They had arrived at 2am and slept in their rental car (filled with camping gear and food) They were very disappointed to learn of the system, and that they would loose their site. We offered to share our site with them, and enjoyed talking to them both days they were with us. They tried to share the cost of the site, but we refused; we have been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers (sometimes very poor strangers who didn’t speak our language and we had been told wanted to kill us) that we could not take money from them. They have nearly a month in the States, and are going to see more of the West than most Americans will ever see. Their English is fantastic, and we had some interesting political and social discussions. They like Americans despite the anti French press they have been hearing the past few years. One thing we all agreed on was that people who travel are much less likely to harbor hate for other peoples and cultures; once you have looked in a stranger’s eyes, and broken bread with him/her, it’s hard to hate him or his kind.
Nancy, Pasqual and Daniele (forgive our spelling)
We had a long and enjoyable visit with the campground hosts, Gary and Francoise who are looking to move out of Phoenix; she has asthma and can’t take the air anymore. I can relate, and attest to Tucson’s clean air. They had heard about Far Horizons, and we gave them our pitch. I think they will visit in the fall and maybe move there. They would be a great addition to the park; they are full of energy and social.
Our first day in Arches we took a short hike, enjoying at least one, new to us, arch and the beautiful wildflowers and cactus arrayed against the coral pink sand. Sunday we took, what we thought would be a moderately strenuous mountain bike ride of about 30 miles. The first seven miles were easy, showing us lots of different wildflowers and only a few corrugations. Then the —- hit the fan. First it got steep, then the steep turned to sand. We thought we might have a couple of miles of pushing our bikes, but it turned out to be an epic of seven plus miles of deep sand and hills.
A bicycle is an awful burden to push through sand, and we couldn’t even pedal the downhills the sand was so deep. Good thing the flowers were blooming.
We ran out of water and food near the end and felt the big bonk:
To bonk is to run out of glycogen in one’s muscles from exertion and not have food to replace it. It is very unpleasant, particularly when you do not have any choice except push on. Each step is a struggle to force your muscle to do work it is really incapable of doing, and every muscle in your body makes you pay in pain for making it move when it only wants rest and food.
We finally made it out of the sand and to a motorhome parked in an unusual place. The very pleasant young man from California, was the “mo ho” (California speak for motorhome) manager for a company that supports film and still photo shoots. The photographer, assistants and model were off doing their shoot. He gave us water and that made a big difference; we only had to push our muscles without food for another nine miles.
The photo shoot was for French Vogue magazine and the model was wearing Pocahontas, and other Native American inspired dresses. Claire thought they came to the red rocks of Arches, and not the more famous Monument Valley because of the fake Indian theme. I can imagine the Navajo would not be angry, but only too glad to take their money, and laugh at their absurd vision of Native Americans.
The light was lovely at sunset and we clambered over the slickrock taking pictures and enjoying the truly spectacular location. Arches never disappoints, though this time we could have done without the epic part of our mountain ride!
Claire against the sky long after sunset

Dinosaur Tracks and Hoodos in Southern Utah

Looking into Arches NP

Dino tracks and New Balance size 7

Friday May 25: Back in the Moab library working all day again today. Yesterday we took a moderate mountain bike ride to the edge of Arches National Park. We added a few dinosaur track pictures to our growing collection; there will be a story in that someday, and we’ll be able to provide the illustrations. We’re out here farming, harvesting photos that may someday be useful for Claire’s (and my) magazine writing.

We met two couples, one young from California, and the other older from Ontario, Canada. Both were interested in talking about our lifestyle, and how we manage it. Both had more money than we do, but considerable less time, and both wanted more time to explore together. Today I sent out query letters to a hundred or so literary agents for a book proposal we have tentatively set at It’s A Wonderful Life. We think there is a market for it, we just have to convince an agent and then a publisher. We have been working on one chapter and a tentative chapter list, but we’ll have a lot more work to do if we get a request for a full-blown proposal. Don’t know how we’ll do that on the road, but we’d find a way.

Growth is a big deal in Moab. Claire wrote a story about our mountain bike tour of the White Rim for the Zephyr, a local monthly and she got paid with a five-year subscription. Jim Stiles, the editor is very against change, and fighting a loosing battle, but there seems to be positive change coming with the growth. There is now a nice trail system all over town for walkers and bikers, and there are bike racks full of bikes everywhere. I understand Jim wanting to close the door behind him after he got here, but it’s a lost cause; best to focus on directing the growth than blindly fighting it. From the looks of the new library we have been using for the past week, there are a lot of progressive folks here willing to pay for infrastructure. The library has tables with plugs for laptops everywhere and free wi fi; we can even pick it up in Turtle across the street. We find the people very friendly, though they might be a little tired of tourists come October. This corner of the country, SE Utah, N. Arizona, SW Colorado and NW New Mexico is the best of the U.S. for beauty and variety, and SE Utah is the best of the best. But, Shhhh

Hollywood Jack and his driver.