As the looming snow-capped mountains come into view, I feel a sense of excitement. It feels good to be back on the road, especially after the past few weeks. Weeks of cleaning and preparing the house for sale has gotten old real quick. I need a break. I need to get away. It’s Friday, May 17th the weekend before Memorial Weekend; the official kick off to summer fun in Colorado. A perfect time to hit the road.
I leave Al and Bear behind and hop in my little red Toyota Tacoma bound for Grand Junction, Colorado. Within a mere thirty minutes from home, the road begins to twist and turn as Highway 50 meanders along the Arkansas River. This particular stretch of Highway 50 can be stressful when there is a considerable amount of traffic. This morning I practically have the road to myself and thus drive at a relaxing pace allowing myself to take in the scenery.
The Arkansas River between the towns of Canon City and Salida, Colorado, is a popular tourist destination for white water rafting. The rafting season hasn’t begun just yet, therefore no rubber rafts in sight, but that will change in the next week or so as the snow melts in the high country making for some fast moving water. Canon City and Salida both offer plenty of rafting outfitters to accommodate the various levels of adventure seekers.
As I get closer to the town of Salida, I sense a rise in elevation. Perhaps seeing the Continental Divide in the distance is a reminder of the change in elevation necessary to cross the Rocky Mountains. My journey started in Pueblo West at an elevation of 4,900 feet and I have been gradually climbing as I approach the town of Salida at 7,000 feet.
Just west of Salida, the road climbs more aggressively toward Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide. Monarch Pass sits at an elevation of 11,312 feet and is the high point of Highway 50. I’ve been on the road a couple of hours now and could use a break ….. photo-op. There is still plenty of snow but it’s a sunny, warm 60 degrees at 11,312 feet.
What goes up, must come down. Once on the other side of Monarch Pass, it’s all down hill, as evidenced by the “runaway truck ramp”. I often wonder how the driver of a semi-truck feels racing down a twisty, curvy mountain road with brakes not functioning. It’s not as if a guard rail, when there is a guard rail, would stop a semi from tumbling over the edge. That kind of excitement, I assure you, I do not need to experience first hand.
I’ll stick with my little truck. I coast down the western slope of the Rocky Mountains with the help of my brakes here and there. Traffic is light. I’m really enjoying the drive. I stop for lunch in Gunnison before stopping at the Blue Mesa Reservoir. I can’t believe how low the water level is at Blue Mesa Reservoir. The past few years of drought have taken a toll on Colorado’s reservoirs. However, it should fill considerably as the snow melts in the high country…..I hope.
I continue on the journey enjoying a perfect day…..oops….spoke too soon. I come to a screeching halt about fifteen minutes east of the town of Montrose. Construction! Did you know Colorado only has two seasons? Winter and construction. I knew this day was too perfect. Oh well, with no place to go we all shut off our engines and enjoy the perfect weather and scenery.
With plenty of time to day dream, I glance out the rolled down window and wonder about the folks living on this ranch in the above photo. They are probably cattle ranchers. Pretty common in this area of Colorado….cattle country. Could I live here? Would I want to live here? Probably not….. most likely not. The winters are long and hard in this neck of the woods. Come on, it’s the end of May and there’s still snow on the ground. You should see this part of Colorado in the winter…..beautifully white in all directions covered deep in snow AND it’s cold….the air and the snow 😉
After thirty minutes of waiting, traffic finally starts to move and it is once again smooth sailing the rest of the way. 6 1/2 hours and 383 miles later I pull into my brothers driveway in Grand Junction…..right behind his new travel trailer.
My brother and his wife camped in Moab the previous weekend. Knowing I was coming for a visit, brother postponed stowing the trailer so I could see his new toy. We spend the evening swapping RV stories over cocktails and catching up with life in general. Tomorrow we’ll visit The Monument.