Monday, July 27, 2020

On the road again!

Our last long bike trip was 2 years, and we've been looking forward to today for months. We left home this morning on a 3 week trip into Utah, Wyoming and Colorado on a beautiful, sunny July day.

We rode north out of Prescott on I-17 into Flagstaff, then continued north on 89 through the wide open high desert.

Our route led us east on 160, through the Navajo Nation that covers more than 27,000 acres in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.  This area is part of the Painted Desert where deposits of clay and sandstone were layered by floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes to create stunning, colorful rock formations.

We were also struck by the Native American photos and artwork on abandoned buildings along the highway.

We stopped in Kayenta, a Navajo town on the Colorado Plateau at 5,700' elevation, for a quick lunch at Subway. The Navajo have been hit hard by COVID-19, and require masks and only allow take-out meals. We found a shady spot outside the Subway store and quickly ate lunch while we listened to loud cracks of thunder. Luckily the storm was behind us as we continued north on U.S. 163 into Monument Valley.

Billions of years ago Monument Valley was a lowland basin where sediments that eroded from the nearby mountains built up multicolored layers of rock that eventually were lifted up into a high plateau 1 to 3 miles above sea level. Wind and water erosion wore away the softer rock, leaving the impressive rock formations we rode by today.

At one point Mike saw a horse running along the side of the highway and I was lucky enough to snap a quick picture

We crossed into Utah and a few miles later came into the aptly named town: Mexican Hat.  We circled down the highway that sweeps off the edge of Cedar Mesa, crossing the San Juan River. Mexican Hat is named after a rock formation that looks like a Mexican hat: a large, flat rock that is 60' in diameter perched on top of a much smaller base. The rock formation doesn't look that large from the highway, and you can see it in the middle of the photo below.

The colors of the rocks are amazing, and some of them formed a vvvvv pattern that reminds me of my grandmother's favorite rickrack that she put on most of the clothes she sewed for us.

163 meets up with U.S. 191, and we finished the day's 339 miles riding through Bluff, Utah settled by the San Juan Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1880 when 250 pioneers spent 6 months establishing a wagon road through this inhospitable terrain. We covered more miles in <6 hours than they did in 6 months, which puts travel through the arid, rocky, canyon-filled Southwest into perspective.

We're spending the night in Blanding, Utah, founded in the late 19th century by some of the same hardy pioneers who trekked to Bluff. We dodged the rain and thunderstorms and thoroughly enjoyed the first day of our motorcycle trip.

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