Needles Overlook to Blanding - Grand Junction to Durango 1991 - CycleBlaze

April 16, 1991

Needles Overlook to Blanding

I only thought yesterday's winds were bad.  Had I known what was in store today, I wouldn't have complained so much.

The day began by my retracing the twenty two miles back to highway 191.  It was a lovely ride the whole way, highlighted by five mile deer and two lone antelopes.  The last antelope stood out silhouetted on the skyline, three hundred yards away, for quite a while - it made a striking, romantic portrait.

Back on the highway again, heading south toward Monticello twenty three miles away, I immediately ran into a wall of wind.  I'm sure each such ride seems like the worst ever, as fortunately the memory of the pain recedes over time (like pregnancy, I suppose - if I really remembered how awful days like this feel, I might be less eager to start out on a tour again).  

This one really was awful though.  Every one of the twenty three miles to Monticello was physically and mentally expensive.  I went through my usual, small range of psychological tricks to help me survive - counting stakes beside the roadside, counting paint stripes, calculating percentages of completion, reminding myself how hard it would be to get back on the bike again once I stopped.

The worst stretch was a seven mile climb to the 6,800' summit of Peters Hill.  I spent much of my time pedaling slowly in my lowest gear(ed: looking at the map now, I'm surprised at how steep this climb was - the worst 3 miles are about 10%.  No wonder I was so tired!)  Finally at the summit, having covered the impressive distance of fifteen miles in only two hours and fifteen minutes, I collapsed by the side of the road for a while to regroup.  The next eight miles were more of the same, but without the hill to break the wind a bit - but without a descent either, since Monticello is a bit higher yet.

I arrived in Monticello at 1:30, with only 45 miles to show for six hours of hard labor.  After stopping at a diner to inhale today's special (a hot roast beef sandwich, mashed potatoes, green beans and salad), I phoned Rachael at work to assure her that I am (barely) alive, and to hear that she'd safely returned from Salt Lake City. She said that the skiing was terrific but the visit with her mother was disturbing.

The twenty two miles to Blanding were not as bad as the last ones, thankfully - no huge hills, a fair amount of descent, and the wind seems a bit less furious on this side of the divide.  I was entertained for a few miles by a ninth grader who drafted me up a small hill on his way home from school.

I decided to use Blanding as a pit stop.  It's about the midpoint on the tour, I'm low on clean clothes, and I'm badly in need of a shower.  And, sleeping in a bed sounds pretty attractive too.  So, here I am this evening - clean, refreshed, poised to wake early tomorrow, snare a big breakfast and head west (not south!  The winds better not shift tomorrow!) for Natural Bridges, thirty eight miles away.

Overlooking Canyonlands at dawn, from Needles Overlook. Not a bad start to the day.
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Monticello. This is the only photo I can find for the entire day's ride. I apparently just wasn't in the mood for some reason.
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Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 340 miles (547 km)

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