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....--- Day 3 -- Vail, Colorado to Grand Junction, Colorado ---
.............--- The World's Largest Flat-topped Mountain ---
For the return trip we mapped out a route that would leave I70 at Glenwood Springs and...
...... take us south to and past Carbondale and then more westerly towards the town of Delta, which is southeast of Grand Junction. We planned spending the night in Junction before heading home the next day.
I70 through Glenwood Canyon is ....
.... a beautiful ride.
We stopped and gassed up in Glenwood Springs. Dottie spotted some people getting rides on parasails far above us on a ridge line about a mile away. It wasn't until we blew the pictures up that we saw there were two people below each parasail. They worked the thermals along the ridge for a while before heading towards a landing site somewhere.
We headed south on 82 and at Carbondale turned onto 133 and followed the Crystal River Valley for a while.
Even though it was July there was still snow in the higher elevations and the rivers and streams were still running with a lot of water in them.
133 finally left the Crystal River and climbed to McClure Pass. A relatively low pass, for Colorado, at just under 9,000 feet but still a beautiful ride.
On the other side of the pass we dropped down to lowered elevations, following the North Fork of the Gunnison. At Hotchkiss we followed 92 on west and could of stayed on 92 until Delta, Co and then headed up 50 to Grand Junction. Instead, west of Delta we turned north on 65 and after a few miles arrived in the town of Cedaredge.
It was getting on in the day and we were hungry so stopped at the Apple Shed and had a nice light meal. The Apple Shed is kind of unique, as along with the restaurant, there are other tourist businesses all sharing the same roof. Some nice art but above our budget, so it was lunch and then back on the bike.
We decided on 65 as it would take us up and over Grand Mesa, parts of which are almost 11,000 ft.. Grand Mesa is the largest flat topped mountain in the world and rises over 6000 feet above surrounding river valleys. As you head north on 65 you will also pass Powderhorn Ski Resort. Powderhorn has a vertical drop of 1650 feet and averages 250 inches of snow a year. A lot of it being Powder, thus the name.
When we were in Cedaredge clouds had been brewing on the mesa. We had considered not stopping for lunch because of them, but thought we could make it over before any rain. Despite the picture above looking back towards Cedaredge, we were soon in rain. We hoped it would be short lived so only put on our tops. Not a smart move. Soon the rain picked up and we went through patches of intense hail. Small hail, but for some stretches the hail was up to 2-3 inches deep on the road. I was following about 3 cars and they were breaking a path through it. I only had clear lanes about 1-2 feet wide where their tires had broken through.
We continued on, but if the hail would have covered the narrow paths the cars were making we would have stopped. The temps dropped and our legs were wet and we had been stung by the hail, but after 10 minutes or so we came out from under the clouds, rain, and hail on the north side of the mesa and started dropping in altitude. We stopped in the small town of Mesa for a break and to dry off a little bit. There is a really nice place there for a meal or a drink of your choice called 'BLINK COFFEE'. The name tells it all so watch for it on the west side of the road. It is well worth stopping for a break.
After Mesa we made the run on down to I70. We followed I70 west to Horizon Dr. on Junction's north side and our Super 8 Motel. The day was a great ride with some beautiful country and some excitement with the hail storm. All on roads that we would recommend to anyone traveling in this area.
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