Durango/Chama July road trip, Day 1


Today I woke up thinking about the nice long day of riding ahead of me. I got up, packed the bike, kissed my husband good-bye, and headed out into the morning sun that was already hot, by the way. It was due to be another scorcher, and I was glad I was going to leave it behind. I rode toward Fountain Hills where I would meet my usual riding partner, Hal, then get on the road to Durango, CO.

I was early, and Hal was late. He had some problems getting ready to go and I waited for over an hour. But, some things can’t be helped, and we finally got going. This time our route to Durango would start on the 87, the Beeline Hwy., instead of going up I-17, through Flagstaff, then Cameron, Tuba City, Kayenta, Four Corners, Cortez, to Durango. That is our usual route, but this time we went through Payson, Heber, Holbrook, I-40 (briefly!) then took 191 north through Ganado, Chinle, Many Farms,  Teec Nos Pos (my favorite weirdly-named place), Four Corners, Cortez, then Durango.

Our first stop was Holbrook where we fueled up. I noticed two things in Holbrook: a cool coffee shop called “Thanks a Latté,” and the second thing I noticed was a guy in handcuffs being loaded into a patrol car, two widely different things, but the only things of note as we went through. Yes, then we got onto the hateful I-40, where I said I’d never ride again, but it was only for about 40 miles instead of the terrible 300+ I did three weeks ago.

We got off the interstate at the 191 North exit for an uneventful ride on mostly flat, straight roads. Did you know Ganado has its own little roundabout? Even they have to have one, I thought to myself. I hate roundabouts, I think they are the stupidest things ever. Then, we got to Chinle (another dirty pit of a town), and we fueled up again in Many Farms. I keep thinking Many Farms should have all white clapboard houses with green shutters, white picket fences, green grass, and everything should be neat and clean. It’s not a bad place, mostly green and fairly clean, but it doesn’t look in reality like it does in my imagination. It always amazes me as I ride through the reservation how animals can just be roaming around free at the sides of the road. A couple of times we backed off the throttles quickly when we saw 50 or so sheep at the very edge of the road, and there were times when I saw horses dangerously close as well. Usually they get there because even though there are cattle guards, the fence is usually broken right next to where the cattle guard is, allowing the animals an easy trail out around the cattle guard, and onto the roadway. Apparently, in this case the animals are smarter than the people who own them.

After Many Farms, I was really feeling zombie-like, I was lulled into semi-consciousness by the boring road, but soon the terrain changed to red rock formations like you see in Monument Valley. The funny thing is, since this is the reservation, people just plop down a “house,” or yurt  (I think they are called hogans in Native American vernacular), or whatever, right there in front of a towering, breathtaking rock formation, which kind of ruins the view for travelers, but at the same time you can see how those who live there would like looking at it every day themselves. Finally, we met up with the 160, which is part of our original route.

The road is kind of crazy since it is narrow and has a lot of lumps and bumps. I was glad I’d just replaced the fork seals on my bike because the suspension was definitely working today. Then, probably in answer to my complaining about the crappy road, I see my least favorite sign ­– dah dah DAH!!! (sinister music) – “road work ahead.”  I thought, no, seriously? Again? Then my really least favorite sign – “motorcycles use extreme caution.” Uh-oh. When I see that in Colorado, then I know I am in for it. Once, I had to ride my fully-loaded touring bike through slimy mud for a couple of miles during a thunderstorm, and another time I had to ride the same fully-loaded touring bike through deep gravel for several miles. At least I found out I could, right? It was kind of scary while I was doing it, though. Today’s little excursion wasn’t bad. There was a sign that said “pavement ends,” but it was just rough asphalt that I think earlier in the week was the deep, loose gravel like I’d ridden through before. The funny thing was that when I looked down at my speedometer I realized I was actually riding through this gravelly pavement-y stuff faster than I have been riding my GS bike lately with the big dirt tires. Hmmmm. I suppose there is a lesson in there somewhere.

That ended after only about three miles, and then we were free of it. By this time we were nearly to Cortez, thank goodness. In Cortez at the first stop light, my riding partner yelled over to me, “want to stop at Wendy’s?” The funny thing was, I was just about to ask him the same question. We pulled in there and I had some fruit/ice cream parfait concoction that was good, and cold! The whole day had been one of riding in heat, and I was getting sick of it. After Wendy’s, the only thing we had left was the last 44 miles to Durango!

Those 44 miles are wonderful miles, and we rode a little bit of flats then started to climb, summiting at Hesperus ski area. It’s usually very cold up there and I have to layer up, but not today! It only got down into the high 70s F. and it felt really good to me. The road also curves and swoops, and this is the best part of the trip! As we went down the other side, we got a little bit of speed, but not for long. It was so much fun. The next thing I knew we were in Durango, finally!!

Unfortunately, we missed the last steam train coming in, but in the morning I will be up early to see them off as they leave for Silverton. Then, tomorrow we will be on our way to Chama and all the great roads around there. That is the goal of this weekend journey, to ride again those roads that we discovered last time we were in this area.

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One thought on “Durango/Chama July road trip, Day 1

  1. I also saw the sign for motorcycles to use extreme caution and I started driving totally recklessly since the sign did not apply to me. Whoo hoo! We just drove through there on Saturday coming back from Ouray.

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