Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Riding the BMW from Colorado into Arizona

 Today's ride took us from the lush green mountains around Pagosa Springs, Colorado into the wide-open desert in northern Arizona over 370 gorgeous miles.

It was fun to see a hot air balloon as we started our ride today heading west on US 160. We rode past Chimney Rock National Monument at the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains, where over 200 homes and ceremonial buildings of the Ancestral Puebloans are preserved.

160 West took us through Durango and Cortez through the Southern Ute Reservation and the Ute Mountain Reservation, reminders that people made this area their home for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. We reached 3,000 miles for our trip - so far - in Cortez.

After riding through the San Juan mountains outside Durango, we rode past Mesa Verde National Park, established in 1906 to preserve more sites of the Ancestral Puebloans, including 600 cliff dwellings. The park towers at 6,000'-8,500' above the surrounding valley.

Whenever we head home from a motorcycle trip north of us, we have to ride through the Navajo Reservation which covers 27,000 acres in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. That's slightly larger than the entire state of Tennessee! Small towns are few and far between in the Navajo Nation, and with COVID restrictions there are many closures. We make sure to fill up the BMW with fuel before we get onto the Nation and not stop at all, if possible. Today we stopped in Cortez which sits at 6,200' elevation in the Montezuma Valley in southwestern Colorado. As we headed south on US 160, we left the green mountains behind us as we entered the desert. For the next part of our trip, the only green we would see are areas that are irrigated.

Unlike riding the twisting, curving roads through the Rocky Mountains the past few days, today's ride was on straight roads which allowed us to zoom along the highway at faster speeds. We crossed the San Juan River which marks the boundary between the Ute Mountain Reservation and the Navajo Reservation and then past Four Corners where the states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet.

The landscape changed again as we rode into Kayenta, a town of about 5,000 people in the Navajo Reservation. The red rock cliffs and buttes seem to change color and even shape with the changing light from sun to cloudy skies, making this a mesmerizing ride. 

US Route 160 ends at US 89, where we turned south toward Flagstaff, Arizona, our stop for the night. The temperature rose to 99.5 degrees and thankfully a partly cloudy sky kept it a bit cooler as we rode toward the San Francisco Peaks.

Flagstaff sits at about 7,000' elevation so the temperature dropped into the low 80's. Tomorrow is a short 2 hour ride home, and the end of our 17 day motorcycle trip.

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