Epic day with Siafirede in Colorado National Monument

About a week ago, I met up with Siafirede on his journey west. It was a excellent day for a 36er tour. Snow is still abundant here in the high country, so the high mountain passes not rideable. But, this time of year lends itself to some incredible desert climbs and rides. Much later in the spring, these rides are not possible, due to the extreme heat. Probably the most popular ride that fits this category is the Rim Rock Drive, in Colorado National Monument. It has gained its notoriety among cyclists for a few reasons, this loop was part of the now defunct Coors Classic Bicycle Race ( formerly Red Zinger), and the route appeared in the movie American Flyer. With sweeping vistas of the Western Slope, this route climbs high above Grand Junction. It is nicknamed “Tour of the Moon”, due to the sandstone cliffs and magnificent formations along the way. Siafirede, his buddy Jason, and I met at the west entrance into the monument. I opted for riding the fairly flat stretch first, and therefore we would end up back at our cars, and make it a loop ride.
The weather was pleasant, highs to be in the 60’s, clear skies with a few cumulus clouds passing by in the afternoon. There was a weather advisory though, High Wind Advisory. High wind in the desert can be miserable, because when “windy” comes, she usually brings “sandy” with her.
We took off and had to fight a steady headwind with some small climbs for the first ten miles. This stretch led us to the east entrance where the real work begins. Siafirede and I waited for Jason at the entrance, made our plans with him, and then headed up into the monument. In the first three miles of riding, you gain almost 2000’ vertical.
I soon found myself alone, just me and the strong winds. Half a dozen or so switchbacks and a tunnel came into view. Twenty feet before the entrance to the tunnel a gale force wind came from the side and nearly blew me off the edge, to the switchback below. It took all I had to keep climbing and make it to the tunnel. The tunnels in the monument are all natural finish tunnels, no concrete, etc. A definite rush riding through the dark with a white hole at each end, no cars, whew. The warm color of the sandstone and the rock walls are appealling against the Colorado blue sky. For the next 5 or so miles, the pushing was completely against the southwest winds, which were growing stronger by the minute due to the convective heating of the earth. Thankfully, the climbing wasnt as steep. Siafirede met up with me again at the “highest point” marker of the ride, where I took a nap. From there we spun our way along the rim rock drive road together.
As we continued winding along the road, we were treated to glimpses down into the heart of the monument. The drop offs are insane, and the sandstone cliffs and formations are absolutely incredible. After another small climb, we were at another high point. This is where the views open up in all there glory. Some of the rock in the monument is 1.5 billion years old! At one of the pullouts, where the view was world class, we noticed some rock climbers on top of Independence Monument, a lone monolith of sandstone sitting in the middle of the monument floor. I will attach a picture showing the last person rappin off the top, really impressive to watch live. We stopped at quite a few of the pullouts to take pics and just be. A quick stop at the Visitor Center to say hi, and off we went. From the center, the road decends rapidly with two tunnels. I could see the dust storm building to the west, in the Utah desert, so we pushed a little hard to beat it out.
Siafirede and I had a excellent day touring the monument together. It is a classic ride, whatever you might be pedalling or driving. I heard lots of inspiring stories from the New Zealand tour from Siafirede. It was a pleasure to ride with another strong unicyclist and to share part of my world with him. Winter is still hanging on here, so I will probably find myself riding there again soon, but first I am going on a 5 day river trip with thirty 7th graders. Fun, huh?
Stats:
33 miles 54km
5500’ climbing 1676 meters
3hr 30min riding time

This is the Independance monument, look for the person rappin off the top. Cool.

forgot the pic, duh.

me w/ balanced rock formation, close to west entrance Peace :slight_smile:

nice pics

Nice write up, mike!

Aspenmike,
thanks for the great write up, pics, and for sharing your experience. All of it was thoroughly enjoyable and the pics were fantastic (a far cry from anything we have to offer here in Ohio! :slight_smile:
My wife and I are thinking about taking a week’s vacation this summer out around your way and I’ll have my 36" in tow, to be sure. Maybe I should give you a holler to see if your up to do it again! (if it’s not too hot, that is…:frowning:
Again, great story. Thanks for sharing.
'Nugly

simply beautiful

Awesome stuff Mike! Quite the scenic place to ride, eh? That’s a lot of climbing - are you still on 170s?

Here are photos from one of our recent rides - April 15. 5:40 riding time (an amazing 9:25 total time!), 47 miles, 4000+’. Great fun: http://nhoover.smugmug.com/gallery/2722632

—Nathan

Nathan, I thought I was going to get through this week without committing one of the seven deadly sins, but Envy snuck up on me as I was going through those photos. What a ride!

Your pics also reminded me that I have a Hunter 36 frame sitting in a box in my garage that I REALLY need to get set up one of these weekends. The GB4 36 has been very good to me, but it’s time for a change.

Not this weekend though…we’re going to go ride this one on Sunday.

I definitely had a great time on the ride. I will post my pictures once I get back to my computer back home. You definitely were cruising up those climbs with your 170s. Jason and I were glad to meet you and hopefully we can do something like that again!

-James

As always, great write up.

Thats always a very fun ride, I have good memories there.

speaking of the (defunct) Coors Classic and American Flyer, the Morgul-Bismarck loop is also always a fun ride. Luckily i live about 5 minutes from it:D