Dead Horse Point to Needles Overlook - Grand Junction to Durango 1991 - CycleBlaze

April 15, 1991

Dead Horse Point to Needles Overlook

I got up at first light and biked out to the end of the road (another half mile) to canvas the views, and then set of for breakfast in Moab, 32 miles away.  It was a beautiful, mostly downhill retracing of yesterday's climb, but prettier from the saddle this morning - the best views are back to the east across Arches and the Manti la Sal range.  There are.a number of calves out on the road this morning.  It is entertaining to watch their predictable reaction to my passage - they stare at me for awhile and contemplate, and then finally turn, lift their tails and run crying for mother.

When I reach the highway I encounter the bad news for the day - strong southerly winds.  After ten miles on the highway struggling against a direct headwind, I arrive in Moab where I repeat yesterday's breakfast.  Just so I won't seem too routine though, I sit at a different table this time.

Looking over the Colorado from Dead Horse Point at dawn. Not a bad way to start the day.
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After breakfast I stock up for a long haul.  The next services are in Monticello, a hundred miles away, including a planned fortyfour mile detour to Needles Overlook.  Provisions acquired include: a pound of peanut butter, a pound of longhorn cheddar, a package of dried apples, four bagels, a quart of grapefruit juice, a coke, a pint of milk, two pounds of gorp, two more rolls of film, and chapstick.  My panniers are very full.

The next thirtythree miles are as predicted - awful headwinds batter me the whole way.  I manage to grind out the first fifteen before stopping at a rest area to regroup.  The wind is blowing so hard that my glasses start blowing away when I set them down.

It was a rewarding break in spite of the wind.  I was interrupted from my reading by a fiftyish couple from Germany on a tour of the southwest.  They had many interesting things to say and were interested in my tour.  They claimed to do a lot of hiking and bicycling also, and had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon a few days ago.  Mr Reidel invited me to sty at his campground the next time I pass through Bavaria.  He also revealed that he recently changed his life, reduced his needs and work, and is now free about six months out of the year.

Reflecting on this interesting and stimulating conversation carried me another ten miles, where I stopped to Visit Wilson Arch, another strikingly beautiful structure which stands adjacent to the highway. 

Wilson Arch
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Wilson Arch frames the Manti la Sal range
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The Manti la Sal range, from Wilson Arch
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The wind and the hills both get steadily worse.  It takes a lot of will power to stay in the saddle eight more miles to the turnoff to Needles Overlook.  By this time I was doubting I would reach my goal - fatigue was setting in, and daylight hours were short.  To my immeasurable delight though, the road to the Overlook veers enough to the northwest so that I now have a strong tailwind to push me home.  It is generally uphill for these last twenty two miles, but there are enough level stretches that I feel like I am rocketing up the road.  It feels like I am fueled by a battery I've been charging by my last thirty miles of agony.

Not only is it physically much easier than expected, it is gorgeous - another gradual ascent to the top of the world; virtually car-free (I've seen only one car on the road in the last hour and a half), and graced by a herd of seven pronghorn antelopes dancing across the sage.  A fabulous ride.

The lookout, over Canyonlands National Park, makes the day's labors more than worth the pain.  Like at Dead Horse, this is a point jutting out into the vast and jagged Colorado Basin.  I have the entire area to myself, and blissfully feast on cheese, peanut butter, bagels and juice while basking in an awesome vista reddened by the sunset.

Wild camping at Needles Overlook. Reflecting back now, these past two nights are probably the most dramatic back-to-back camping settings I've experienced.
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Ending the day watching the sun set over Canyonlands
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Today's ride: 80 miles (129 km)
Total: 275 miles (443 km)

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